March 3, 2020

Meals on Wheels program delivering to larger population

County contributes $40,000 to fund increased volume

The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners voted Friday to fund Grand River Meals on Wheels (GRMoW) in the amount of $40,000 to sustain home delivery meal services to homebound clients in Western Garfield County. The vote came as the need for social distancing measures around COVID-19 has driven participation in the program up 20% since early March.

“Most of our clients are in their eighties and nineties. Every request seems like a heart-wrencher,” said Kaaren Peck, GRMoW Director. “In addition to the recent growth in demand for food delivery, our programs largest annual fundraiser, Empty Bowls, was postponed due to COVID, just 10 days before our event.”

Based out of Grand River Health, the program provides over 20,000 nutritious meals, and daily contact to homebound seniors, the disabled, and hospice clients from New Castle to Parachute/Battlement Mesa each year.

“This program has been running for 44 years. We are more than just a meal, we definitely are.”

Precautions due to COVID-19 have forced volunteers to practice social distancing, limiting the contact with clients. According to Peck, the program has had to make adjustments to keep volunteers and clients safe. “We can’t do the chat at the door that normally happens, so we are setting up phone connections now so that our clients don’t feel the isolation even more. Its these personal relationships that keep our drivers coming back. We say that our clients are our peeps and we take care of our peeps.”
More than a meal, the program provides birthday bags with handmade items for clients during their birthday months, and blizzard bags with emergency food and supplies for the winter. “We even have a 4H student who makes festive cookies for special holidays. Our people are well cared for and loved by this community.”

Flexible offerings for working-age volunteers

Longer meal delivery routes can be up to fifty miles round trip, but that doesn’t deter six-year veteran volunteers Curt and Kim Leitzinger. The couple uses the programs flexibility to deliver meals on their lunch hours.

Together, the couple has delivered over 500 meals. “We both work full time jobs and we are still able to deliver meals for people who are home bound or disabled, or who can’t go get food for themselves.”

“Back when we first met around 7 years ago, we learned of the Meals on Wheels Grand River Gallup 5K fundraiser. Running was one of the things we did together, and we liked the idea of running with our dogs and running for a good cause. It got us interested in Meals on Wheels and we decided to look into volunteering,” said Curt. “Being able to provide that basic essential need of food is so important. We live in a high cost of living area, making it hard for people to have a consistent way to get their meals.”

Volunteer pay-off

“Oh, there are so many things that have kept us coming back all these years. The most rewarding is the personal relationships we have made,” said Kim. “We do the same route and we get to know the people.

“These are seniors and the longer you drive, you do see people failing in health. We used to deliver to a man with a strong European accent. He never did like to talk much. We began to notice that his health was failing. The last time we delivered to him, he opened up to us. We talked for a long time and he shared his story about how he fled to America before World War II. He came here with a suitcase and less than $20 to build a new life.”

Curt expressed, “Hearing our client’s stories, and understanding everything we have and can give to others, enhances my own sense of gratitude and connection.”
“It’s awesome and fantastic,” said Kim. “I can’t even explain how good it feels to do something like this.”

To help

Meals on Wheels needs new delivery volunteers once the risk of COVID-19 slows. Though delivery drivers are needed now to help with the increase in demand, the program has to wait until the COVID-19 burden on the hospital system has lessened. Until then, those interested in helping should contact Grand River Meals on Wheels at 970-625-6215 to be added to a list.