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Historically High Gas Prices Hurting Local Nonprofits

Gas Gripes Vo00 00 02 07still002
Mason County Senior Meals Food Service

Us drivers, especially those of us in rural parts of Michigan have been shuddering as we pull up to the pump lately. The rise in prices is not only hurting our wallets, but local nonprofits too.

Local nonprofits like Mason County’s Senior Meals Food Service, or Meals on Wheels serves meals to around 160 seniors and homebound. The Director of Mason County Senior Meals Food Service, Mary Ann Nielsen, says the high gas prices have put them in a tough spot.

“We’ve been kind of on the fence as far as gas prices and discontinuing services or our homebound. Which we will not do. We may change that a bit, but my guideline was $5 per gallon and we’ve hit it,” Nielsen states.

Mason County’s Meals on Wheels program runs four routes a day that cover over 300 miles. Nielsen says now that they’ve hit $5 per gallon they seriously have to consider lowering their services. People who use their services would get a hot meal on Monday then a cold meal for Tuesday that would be delivered that same Monday, and so on.

“So basically we would be delivering hot meals on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then meals throughout the rest of the week would either be frozen or cold,” Nielsen explains.

And whether it’s bringing food to those in need, or bringing folks to their destination, if you need gas, you’ve been hurting.

Benzie Bus’s new Health Ride has been operating for almost six weeks. The Health Ride is a new service that drives people eligible for the service to their doctor’s appointments. Benzie Bus Operations Manager Chad Hollenbeck says they’re alright for now, but a conversation may need to be had soon.

“We haven’t had to have a real serious conversation like that yet. I would anticipate that will be coming as the prices have just continued to soar,” Hollenbeck admits.

However, Hollenbeck says they’re not too worried about the rise in gas. 85-percent of buses with Benzie Bus run on propane, making it cheaper for Benzie Bus. About half of that 85-percent runs on mono-fuel which means they only run on propane. The other half is bi-fuel which means it starts up on gasoline then switches over to propane. Buses that operate on bi-fuel typically run out of propane on longer routes which causes the bus to switch back to gasoline.

Either way, Hollenbeck says they’ve got to figure out a way to get through the high gas prices.

“That budget line is obviously going to increase like everyone else. [We have} to find other ways, try to find creative ways to make sure we can maintain all of those services,” Hollenbeck states.

Although gas prices continue to hit new highs, both organizations are determined to continue to serve those who need them most.

“Our main goal is to take care of our elderly and our homebound. They are the weakest in our society and they want to stay home and we want to feed them. So, as far as these gas prices, it’s kind of a wave runner. We’re going to see what happens,” Nielsen says.