Reporter

Mass of mayors deal meals to local seniors

Members of the League of Mayors from across the state visited the Osceola Council on Aging on Wednesday to serve seniors.

A legion of 27 Florida mayors descended on the Osceola County Council on Aging Wednesday afternoon to share a little community goodwill by serving food to seniors.

The League of Mayors meets in a new city every year to discuss issues affecting municipal governments in the Sunshine State. They discuss what legislative and funding priorities they want to set when it comes time to lobby in Tallahassee next year.

The group is also focused on prompting Home Rule, an idea that local governments should make laws and ordinances on unique issues facing their communities.

This year, they came to Kissimmee for a four-day conference and convention. Spotlighting a different cause or nonprofit organization is usually par for the course during these annual conferences, but this year, Kissimmee Mayor Jose Alvarez wanted to do things a little differently when he spotlighted the Osceola Council on Aging in Kissimmee.

“We didn’t want to just stand around in a conference room talking about it – I wanted to get them out in the field to see how the Council on Aging works first hand,” he said at the event Wednesday.

Alvarez said he chose to spotlight the council for its ongoing effort to help citizens of all ages live better, healthier lives. The Council on Aging runs the Meals on Wheels program, which Alvarez and others at the gathering said may be affected by looming federal budget cuts.  

Meals on Wheels is a network of thousands of independently run groups that receive varying amounts of government aid. The local programs pull on private donations as well as state and local money to deliver hot meals to millions of seniors a year.

The Osceola County on Aging received $100,000 from the city of Kissimmee earlier this year as part of an annual grant process. It received more money from the city than any other nonprofit group, and Alvarez said he plans to continue healthy funding for the group in the future.  

CEO of the Council on Aging Beverly Hougland spoke to the challenges facing the Osceola County group during a special presentation before food was served.

“There’s never enough money,” she said. “We know how to stretch a dollar here, but with a growing community of seniors, it’s hard to keep up.”

Other important staff members from the council also spoke about their role at the organization at the event.

Hazelle Rogers, mayor of South Florida city Lauderdale Lakes, said senior issues and community programs are important in her community, too.

“It’s so critical for us to take care of our older generation of residents,” Rogers said at the event. “The idea of organizations like this facing budget cuts is a scary thought.”

Wednesday’s volunteer effort also served as the kick-off event for Florida League of Mayors’ President Matthew Surrency’s new “Mayors Serve Local” initiative, aimed at municipal leaders actively engaging in communities.

The Florida League of Mayors is an organization founded by mayors for mayors. It’s governed by a 21-member Board of Directors and staffed by the Florida League of Cities.