Howard Training Center is used to seniors dropping by Wittmer Hall to have lunch prepared by clients but last week a special guest dropped by in Congressman Jeff Denham.
Denham, a Turlock Republican who represents Ceres in the 10th Congressional District, came by with staff members to tour the Stonum Road facility. Denham got to meet the developmentally disabled clients who each day prepare meals for a variety of uses.
The Tuesday, July 2 tour of the three buildings ended with lunch.
Board member Glee Williams went on the tour as did Joe Machado, director of operations, and Geri Lewis, who is in charge of HTC events and donations.
"They had a great time," said Lewis of the visit. "Jeff was just thrilled that he was here. He called us a great hidden jewel and that we offer great services. He couldn't believe that we've been here 60 years and that we are not that well known."
The staff explained to Denham that HTC has two other facilities, one being the Production Unlimited site at 213 Empire Avenue near the Modesto Airport. There about 60 clients perform piece work for firms such as Hope Chest and Gallo Winery. At the Stratos Way facility HTC has a program for folks over the age of 50 with disabilities; and where adult skills are taught such as shopping and volunteering.
"We're many businesses within a business," Machado told Denham.
The congressman was surprised to learn that HTC participants also provide landscaping maintenance services along sound walls and in public right of way for the city of Ceres. "I didn't know that, oh wow," said Denham.
Crews also clean up the rest areas on Highway 99 south of Turlock and contract with churches for landscaping and janitorial care.
HTC is mostly known for its culinary kitchen and preparation of senior meals in the Meals on Wheels program. It also serves approximately 600 Stanislaus County seniors 60 and older who are homebound. Also, approximately 12,400 fresh hot meals are prepared and delivered to 13 congregate sites three days a week. Seniors are asked to make a $3 donation per meals to offset costs.
The senior meals program is to expand to four days a week at 10 of the 13 sites next week, the congressman learned.
"In some cases this is the only hot meal these folks receive," noted Machado.
HTC's ARC Catering has been contracting with the Area Agency on Aging since October 2006, taking over from the Stanislaus County Jail kitchen which had been previously providing meals. About 30 clients -- who are high functioning adults with developmental disabilities -- and their supervisors work to provide the meals on days of service.
Funding for senior meals comes from federal sources. The recent federal budget sequestration has resulted in a cutback of funds between five and six percent but Machado is determined to see services expand anyway.
"I am going to work really hard in the next three to six months to get the funds," said Machado.
Reservations are required to ensure a meal at congregate sites. Each site has its own separate number for reservations.