| The Columbus Dispatch
In 2018, LifeCare Alliance set out to create a $20 million endowment fund. In March, as COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, the nonprofit group achieved its goal with help from an anonymous donor, bolstering its future.
The donor’s match to the last $5 million raised could not have been timelier, said President and CEO Chuck Gehring. Although LifeCare is one of the oldest and largest charities in central Ohio, it has existed hand-to-mouth for most of its 122 years in operation, he said.
“This has been an amazing coincidence and good timing, but it really has set us up for decades,” Gehring said. “There are cities in this country with 2,000 people on (Meals on Wheels) waiting lists. People will never see a Meal on Wheels, and with COVID right now, our meals are up 60%.”
LifeCare serves 30,000 clients a year in five counties: Franklin, Madison, Marion, Champaign, and Logan; Diabetes Dayton also recently merged with the organization.
LifeCare’s clients — elderly and medically challenged adults — have been among those hit hardest by the pandemic, Gehring said.
“Because of COVID, people have been in need,” he said. “They can’t get to the store, or their supports have left them temporarily.”
Gehring said that traditional funding sources for health and human service nonprofit groups have eroded over the past 15 years, and the donor wanted to ensure the continued success of LifeCare Alliance.
Gehring said the donor wanted to do something permanent in the area of serving basic needs and hopes that the charity can build on programs and continue to accept as clients all those who are in need.
For two years, Adele Stischok, 96, of the West Side, has received a hot meal daily through LifeCare’s program. This service has not stopped despite the turbulence caused by the pandemic, but she now thanks delivery volunteers from afar with a daily Snickers candy bar on the front stoop.
“It’s awful when you can’t go to the store and get your own groceries,” Stischok said.
LifeCare has no waiting list for its services, Gehring said, and because it is the main Meals on Wheels provider in the Midwest, it is crucial that the organization is able to accept all who are in need. This year, it has delivered meals to 5,500 people in central Ohio.
Gehring said that 70% of the charity’s clients live on less than $1,200 a month, and that this can force them to make difficult decisions such as whether to buy their medication or food, or, perhaps, give up a pet.
The agency aims to eliminate these predicaments, keeping their clients healthy and living independently at home, Gehring said. LifeCare meets basic needs of more than 20,000 central Ohio adults, with the intention of helping them to remain in their home and to improve their quality of life.
The support the agency provides is extensive and includes the Columbus Cancer Clinic, the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, senior dining centers, and personal and home health care services.
Gehring said that while the average cost of an assisted-living facility or nursing home is about $80,000 per year, LifeCare is able to provide meals and homemakers to assist with tasks such as cleaning and laundry for about $2,000 a year.
Stischok said she enjoys the independence of living at home, and the assistance provided by LifeCare makes that possible.
“It’s a wonderful program,” she said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Chuck Gehring’s name.