YEKATERINBURG, Russia, Sept. 28 (JTA) — The Hesed centers operating throughout the former Soviet Union are funded by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which is a primary recipient of funds raised by local federations for overseas needs. Among the free services provided by Heseds in 1998: * Food packages — More than 648,000 food packages were distributed, many timed for major Jewish holidays. * Meals at communal dining rooms and restaurants. More than 13,600 needy clients received meals in 215 dining rooms at 173 locations. * Meals-on-Wheels — Almost 7,400 needy elderly received more than 1,249,800 cooked meals delivered to their homes. * “Warm Homes” — A program in which select elderly Jews volunteer to open their homes to groups of needy Jews on an ongoing basis. In addition to providing supplementary nutrition, the family-like atmosphere serves a critical social function in combating feelings of loneliness and estrangement. Almost 5,800 elderly participated in 385 “warm homes” programs. * Home Care — More than 14,600 elderly clients benefitted from 1,200,000 home-care visits in 213 locations. * Rehabilitative equipment — Almost 20,000 pieces of rehabilitative equipment, including canes, walkers, and wheelchairs were distributed. Some 70 cities received this equipment directly from a plant established by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee that produces rehabilitative equipment in St. Petersburg. * Winter relief — Almost 29,800 needy elderly received winter relief support such as heating and cooking fuel, blankets, and home repairs. * Medicines — About 74,800 needy elderly benefitted from the distribution of medicines from Hesed-based programs. Thousands more made use of programs in various centers that provide legal and medical consultation with volunteer lawyers and doctors. * Social Activities — Almost 95,000 people participated in social and cultural programs including clubs, Hesed day centers, Shabbat and holiday celebrations, libraries and book exchanges.