Supporting a healthy community means more than providing care within the walls of hospitals and clinics. It’s making sure residents are happy, well-nourished and looked after.
Each weekday morning, UCHealth’s hospitality staff at PVH helps ready hot and cold meals for the day’s deliveries by Meals on Wheels volunteers. Monday through Friday, more than 55,000 meals are delivered to community members’ homes, made possible through an almost 40-year partnership between the hospital and the Fort Collins-based nonprofit organization.
UCHealth Nutrition Manager Gerri Brown and Executive Chef Wayne Achziger plan the menu each week, following recommended guidelines from the Aging American Act and using feedback from Meals on Wheels volunteers as to clients’ likes and dislikes.
“The Meals on Wheels program here is very community based,” Brown said. “Because they don’t have the expense of having their own kitchen, they can serve more people and help more lives. It really fits right into UCHealth’s mission to improve lives.”
Meals on Wheels Fort Collins is one of about 5,000 community-based Meals on Wheels programs nationally, and each has a shared goal to deliver meals to homebound residents. Although supported by the national program through advertising and other non-monetary methods, the local program is funded by local contributions and donations, according to the spokesperson for Meals on Wheels Fort Collins. (Learn how you can contribute here.)
Shirley Penner, 84, started getting fresh meals in 2014, and receiving those meals has enabled her and her husband, Reginald, to stay in their home together for as long as they could.
“I have severe arthritis, so I can’t use my hands a lot,” she said. “This provided us with a real balanced meal at noon so that I didn’t have to do as much for dinner.”
Reginald eventually moved into an assisted living home earlier this year, but Shirley continues to get her meals from the program.
“I look forward to it every day,” she said, referring not only to the good food but also the company. “And what I really like are the people who deliver the food. They are so amazing, kind and loving — we become friends.”
Around 11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, volunteer Larry Kerr knocks on Shirley’s door and is soon greeted with a big smile and hello. They chitchat a bit, but as this is Larry’s first stop, he soon heads on his way so that the other half-dozen people on his list that day can get their meals.
Besides bringing nutritious meals, the program provides its clients and their families with the peace of mind that someone, five days a week, will be stopping in at the home of their loved one. Volunteers will alert appropriate parties — whether with a 911 call or notifying Meals on Wheels — when they feel something is amiss with a client.
Kerr has been volunteering for almost a year. He’s a retired Colorado State University coach and said he took his time finding the right volunteer opportunity in retirement. He’s now convinced he found the perfect fit.
“It’s been great,” he said. “My favorite thing is how thankful everyone is, and the more they see you, the more they open up. I have one stop where the guy is a big sports fan, and being a former coach, we have a lot of fun talking sports.”