BREVARD COUNTY – Like most people during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, Josh Jensen had to pivot. As the President and CEO of Aging Matters, COVID restrictions made Mr. Jensen rethink how to accomplish most of the work his organization does on a daily basis. Aging Matters is a Brevard County-based not-for-profit organization and lead agency in the county providing and coordinating all of the services that keep people in their own homes and out of nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
Best known for Meals on Wheels, Aging Matters also provides home health and handyman services; operates Sunflower House, a caregiver resource center in Merritt Square Mall; provides free legal services for qualified seniors through Brevard Legal Aid; offers transportation daily for seniors across the county; and manages 11 different Seniors at Lunch group dining halls.
All of these programs had to be reimagined during the lockdown – including the group dining halls that many seniors relied on daily. Mr. Jensen explained, “those [sites] all closed. The people that used public transportation were added to our Meals on Wheels counts. The ones that were able to get around, every other week, would go to their normal dining sites, and we would provide them with a 10-day supply of frozen meals that meet the same nutritional requirements.” While there’s often a waitlist for the Meals on Wheels program, due to additional COVID funding, in 2020 that waitlist was eliminated. Mr. Jensen continued, “pre-COVID, we did roughly 236,000 meals per year. When it peaked and the COVID funding started coming in… we went from 236,000 to over 350,000 meals in 2020 in all of our nutrition programs.”
While they do receive a large amount of federal and state funding, like most organizations, Aging Matters has a cap on the amount of funding they can receive from the government. This has caused them to not only seek out financial support from smaller, non-government organizations like United Way, but also to reimagine new ways of driving revenue into their programs. One of the newest offerings for the organization comes from their community kitchen, which not only delivers more than 1,500 meals a day to seniors and children in need, but also recently launched “Catering with a Conscience” which is a service that any individual, company, or organization can hire to cater their event – something that both for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations have contracted them to do for their events. Aging Matters employs Chef John Pollei full-time, with 100% of the profits from the catering business going back to the Meals on Wheels program.
Since 1965, Aging Matters has provided these services to Brevard County residents at no cost, with no income requirements for program inclusion. Operating with a small core staff and leadership team, Aging Matters relies on volunteers to help bring their programs to life. Those looking to get involved can do so in multiple ways. Interested parties can book “Catering with a Conscience” for events with up to 300 guests of varying budgets, individuals can donate their time as Meals on Wheels coordinators or senior transportation drivers, and anyone can donate their resources directly by visiting https://agingmattersbrevard.org/.