Everything is sweet in Sweetwater â€” especially the food. The Senior Nutrition Activities Program (SNAP) staff is ready to open the gates at the 28th Annual Taste of Sweetwater (ToS) on Monday, April 14, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Nolan County Coliseum Annex.
About 25 local restaurants are participating in the yearly culinary extravaganza. Each business will have its own table set up where patrons may indulge in selected delectables until there is none left to serve.
The event is hosted by Senior Nutrition Activities Program (SNAP) as a benefit for the organization. SNAP offers many things to the seniors and shut-ins of Sweetwater. The center, which is located at 1701 Elm, is a place for senior citizens to come together for conversation, games and other activities, which include, but are not restricted to, playing pool, cards, dominoes and working jigsaw puzzles.
The participants also have the opportunity to play bingo two times each month. In addition to these activities, SNAP participants and employees take trips to events such as Hee-Haw in Sagerton, concerts and plays.
The most important role SNAP has in Sweetwater and Roscoe is providing hot, nutritious meals for seniors and adults with disabilities. SNAP currently delivers approximately 175 meals every weekday to the homebound through Meals on Wheels. SNAP also serves approximately 35 meals at the center on a daily basis.
What started out as a city-funded program, SNAPâ€™s funding now comes mostly from the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services â€” about 55 percent. Another three percent comes from the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. The Nolan County United Way helps out with another three percent and Nolan County funds provide another one percent. The remaining 38 percent is provided by donations, private contributions, fundraisers, memorials and the City of Sweetwater.
With rising enrollment numbers comes rising costs, which is why SNAP holds fundraisers such as the Taste of Sweetwater. "We are glad to have community support," Tonya Challis, SNAP Director, said. "More and more people need our services, which increases our expenses. We rely on fundraisers like these to get by."
Janet Patty, another organizer and SNAP employee, said that there will be plenty of food to go around at the Taste of Sweetwater. "We have a lot of great vendors this year, and they will be prepared."
Many door prizes will be given away at the event, with special drawings geared towards children.
Volunteers make home delivered meals possible. These people provide thousands of hours of service each year by driving their own vehicles and delivering meals to the shut-ins of Sweetwater and Roscoe. Currently, there are 12 volunteer routes â€” 11 in Sweetwater and one in Roscoe.
SNAP depends on its volunteers as much as its state funding, grants and donations. Without the help of volunteers, Meals on Wheels would be non-existent. Also, many of the recreational activities at SNAP are possible because of volunteers. In fact, many people who participate in SNAP activities are those that volunteer. They volunteer to organize fundraisers, deliver meals and lead in games and recreational activities.
A suggested donation for the meal is $3 for those over the age of 60 and $5 for those who are younger.
Director Tonya Challis, secretary Janet Patty and clerk Betty Ramos run the center each day. The kitchen staff is made up of food service supervisor Marie Suggs, cook Marsisa Castellanos and kitchen aides Kayla Capps, Allison Gaytan and Benina Gonzales. Jim Jameson is the van driver and delivers meals, among other duties at the center.
Whether you have one particular craving to satisfy or you want to sample a bit of everything, $10 gets you in the door to the ToS and you can eat until you are full, the food runs out, or the gates close. Seniors get a discount and may enjoy the fun for $6, children 12 and under pay $4, and three years and under get in for free.
The SNAP center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, and everyone is invited to come eat and/or meet and socialize with others.
SNAP is always looking for volunteers. Anyone interested can call the center at 236-6344. Donations can be made to SNAP, P.O. Box 450, 1701 Elm Street, Sweetwater, TX 79556.
Challis and Patty urge everyone to come and join in the fun, and bring the whole family â€” and your appetites.