Sarnia-Lambton United Way Executive Director Dave Brown June 5, 2019 Photo by Melanie Irwin

United Way defends cutting seniors home maintenance program

The Sarnia-Lambton United Way is defending its decision to cut funding to the Lambton Seniors Association’s [LSA] Handyman/Woman program.

Executive Director Dave Brown was invited to update Lambton County Council on the agency’s state of affairs after council rejected a request from LSA this spring for funding to replace a grant lost from the United Way.

Brown told council they asked LSA for the last two-and-a-half years to do a “means test” to ensure seniors with lower incomes were served first.

“We wanted to focus our funding toward lower-income seniors, enabling them to stay in their own homes,” said Brown. “What was happening was it was first come, first served from Lambton Seniors. So, you could be in a very good financial position that you could afford to get maintenance done, by any one of the for-profit organizations in the community, [and still be approved for low-cost maintenance].”

He said LSA refused to comply with their request.

Brown said other transportation, foot care and Meals on Wheels programs provide a means test. He said funding, if needed, was offered to LSA to bridge the association to the end of its current office location lease — but they received no reply.

Councillor Margaret Bird, who also serves as a board member for the Lambton Seniors Association, said she was “very disappointed” by the United Way’s presentation.

She said she expected to hear general information about the United Way’s plans and current situation.

Bird declined to comment on Brown’s allegations but did confirm that the handyman/woman program is continuing.

“Last year they had 10,000 jobs, they currently have 2, 200 clients,” said Bird. “I understand from the executive that they are working really hard on the funding. They’re putting in tons and tons of applications everywhere, so hopefully, they’ll get something back for a more longer term funder that they can continue.”

The Lambton Seniors Association had received just over $35,000 a year, for three years, until 2019.

The United Way directs 30 per cent of its donations to seniors programs in Sarnia-Lambton each year.