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Tad Dobyns and Phil Iman on a New Program for Audrain County Seniors

Tad Dobyns, left, and Phil Iman, right, stand in front of the Help Center – a beige building. Dobyns wears a checkered shirt and a bright red baseball cap. Iman, who has a long ponytail, wears glasses and a plaid shirt.
Rebecca Smith

Tad Dobyns is a community organizer for Central Missouri Community Action in Audrain County. He recently sat down with his next-door neighbor of sorts: Phil Iman, the director of the Help Center next door. 

They spoke about a new program at the Help Center – called the Senior Box program – that provides extra food resources to low-income elderly individuals and helps meet some of the need in their community.  

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

Tad: There's more people in poverty now than ever in history. In five years, I've seen it go, you know, we've seen it go crazy. It's unbelievable.

A lot of what I see is working poor, situational poverty. You always have your generational poverty, but then the elderly one is the one - their resources are so strained with the cost of living, with family members moving back in. Just the whole nine yards.

Phil: When you're saying that, it just brought back to one of clients that we helped recently with the Senior Box program.

You have to be 60 years of age or older to receive that box, and you have to be at 130 percent of the poverty level.

And so I was sitting down with a lady and talking to her - getting her signed up for it, and she didn't have any transportation. And here's this lady raising her six-year-old granddaughter. Totally. She's got full custody of this child. 

She's trying to get her to school, trying to provide her with all the basic necessities that a child needs, and to receive this 25 pound box of food each month  - I mean, she was just almost in tears at what a blessing that was.

She can't even - she doesn't have transportation. She has to take a cab just to get her daughter – her granddaughter rather to school or to get here to get food because there isn't any public transportation in Mexico.

So, by us delivering that box of food to her every month, I mean, it was just a blessing. And just little things like that - that you realize that these programs do.

Tad: Oh yeah.

Phil: The majority of people we have really need [the program], and it's really a blessing to them. So that program in itself is - we're up to 81 signed up on that. So 81 boxes. 

Tad: That's awesome, and that doesn’t affect their Meals on Wheels or anything like that, right? 

Phil: That's right.

Tad: So this is huge, and you know as well as I do – that is the generation that usually will not ask for help

Phil: That's what we found out. A lot of these folks aren't coming through our normal food distribution line.

And I don't know - there's several factors. It's not having transportation and that other pride factor of, you know, "I've never had to ask for help before."

Now they are sitting there trying to decide where they're gonna buy medicine? Where they're gonna buy food? All of those things. Then just not even knowing about programs like this.

Because when you're just sitting in your house and you don't have the means to go outside of your house - I heard a lady describe it as being trapped inside your own home. She said, "I feel trapped here.”

Because you have to rely on somebody else or public transportation and you're already on a fixed income. So, God, put yourself in that person's shoes. 

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.
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