PLATTSBURGH -- Quite often, we take the simple things in life for granted.

Being able to walk to the store for milk; a hug from someone we care about. These are just a couple of things that happen without a second thought being given to them.

For some people, however, the things we take for granted are the things they cherish the most.

For the employees and participants of the "Meals on Wheels" program, this statement couldn't ring more true.

The program, now in its 35th year, is run by the Senior Citizens Council of Clinton County and has its headquarters in Plattsburgh.

It offers one meal a day to people 60 years or older who are either physically or mentally unable to prepare a meal for themselves.

"This can mean either a temporary thing, like a broken arm," said program director Tammy Kemp. "Or it can mean something on a much more permanent basis."

"Meals on Wheels" is sub-contracted through the Clinton County Office for the Aging and performs its services at eight congregated sites in the county.

Each site offers, with the exception of the Saranac location, one meal a day, Monday through Friday.

"It's not just about the meal," said Kemp, who has been with the program for 22 years. "We are one-third a meal provider, one-third surveillance (making sure the person is OK) and one-third companion.

"Every day, relationships are built through this program," she said, adding that during each weekday, drivers cover 600 miles delivering 430 meals to people's homes.

"That is one of our philosophies. We want to keep people out of nursing homes, and in their own homes as long as possible."

The program, which is funded on both the federal and state level, also receives donations from the participants, as well as the local county legislation.

"The legislators in Clinton County have been wonderful to us," Kemp said, adding that the annual budget of the program hovered around the $1 million mark.

Kemp said that although "Meals on Wheels" is the official title of the program, it's about more than just providing a person with something to eat once a day.

"For our participants, the time they get to spend at meal time is a time for socialization," she said, adding that guest speakers often come in to talk about health and lifestyle issues that are currently in the news. "The recent discussions on fiber are a great example.

"We are the eyes and ears for these people. We don't just offer a place to sit and eat. We are so much more."

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