'No Such Thing as a Free Lunch’
MONTROSE – There is very little that separating dozens of hungry Montrose seniors from the hot home meals they deserve, said Golden Circle Seniors Committee Member (and City Councilor ) Carol McDermott. All it takes, McDermott said, is a caterer with the right insurance.
In September, Volunteers of America, the largest senior assisted-living and elderly-care provider in western Colorado, declared its nationally trademarked "Meals on Wheels" daily food-delivery service for elderly homebound residents too expensive. The program, designed to help seniors who can neither leave home to purchase food nor prepare their own meals, is now down to to two, twice-a-month deliveries. Although hot meals used to be delivered daily, now they arrive frozen. Seniors are supplied with bulk batches of six frozen meals every two weeks, which works out to less than one meal every other day.
McDermott said the announcement was a blow to local seniors. But in recent months, she has worked hard to raise awareness, and muster financial support and donations to reinstate daily meal deliveries. McDermott criticized the significantly-truncated VOA service as a "take it or leave it'" proposition. "These people are homebound,” she said of recipients. “They can't get out." And that means some homebound seniors are going hungry.
In the wake of the VOA announcement, McDermott said, the GCSC formed an Alternative Meals Committee that has now received donations of kitchen equipment from the Montrose County School District, as well as concessions from the city that would allow a food caterer to use the kitchen (and the donated equipment) at the Montrose Pavilion without having to pay the city’s typical catering fees.
McDermott said volunteers from the United Methodist Women church group have teamed up with other groups to help with meal delivery. Thus, “We have plenty of drivers,” McDermott said.
The missing link, she said, continues to be the project’s "great need" for a certified cook – or a vendor – with the necessary liability insurance to cook, five days a week, meals that will be going to an estimated 57-plus homebound seniors.
"If we have a vendor,” McDermott repeated, as an incentivization, the City of Montrose “will waive the fee” for the caterer to use the Pavilion’s kitchen.
McDermott said the GCS did approach Montrose County regarding the use of kitchen space at the Montrose County Jail as well as a delivery truck, but the county declined.
The new program will be called “Hot Wheels Meals,” and meals will be delivered Monday-Friday, except for holidays, at a cost of $3 per meal, McDermott said.
The GCS has created a new Adopt a Senior program in order to raise money that would help offset the meal-delivery costs. Local residents who want to help can make a donation of just $1 per meal per day, or $25 per month.
“We have to charge,” McDermott said of the Hot Wheels Meals’ recipients. “There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Each Hot Wheels Meal will consist of soup, entrée, salad and dessert. Right now, local seniors who drive can get lunch weekdays at the Pavilion’s Montrose Senior Center.
"We have the best senior center on the Western Slope," said McDermott.
McDermott said she could not offer a timetable as to when the new Hot Wheels Meals program will begin. That, she said, will be determined by how many funds are raised, and whether they can hire a vendor. McDermott said the GCS meals' committee is working with the City of Montrose to publish information about the program on the city's website; the organization is also seeking donations to purchase reusable serving containers, to stretch funds “even further."
Next year, the GCS hopes to solicit vegetable donations from the community through its new "Grow a Row for Seniors” campaign, in which local gardeners earmar a row of vegetables for donation to the meal program. McDermott said she wants the program to be able to accept donations of any kind, from bread to local beef.
Perhaps the largest reason to re-start the daily meal delivery is to offer elderly residents personal interaction with the people stopping by their homes each day.
"Isolation kills faster than starvation," McDermott said.
Financial donations to the Golden Circle Seniors program can be made at any Alpine Bank. For more information about the Montrose Senior Center, call 970/252-4889. For information about meal delivery, or to Adopt a Senior, call 970/249-4402 or 970/249-4953.