Meals on Wheels gets a boost with $40,000 Garfield County contribution, as demand increases amid health crisis

Outside of Grand River Health in Rifle, Curt & Kim Leitzinger, along with other volunteer drivers, take their lunch hour to get meals out to homebound seniors.
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.

A $40,000 grant approved by the Garfield County commissioners on Friday will allow the Grand River Meals on Wheels to sustain its 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, according to a county press release.

“Most of our clients are in their 80s and 90s. Every request seems like a heart-wrencher,” GRMoW Director Kaaren Peck said in the release. “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 in Rifle, 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,” Peck said. “We are more than just a meal, we definitely are.”

Given the current public health concerns, precautions due to COVID-19 have forced meal-delivery 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. These personal relationships keep our drivers coming back. We say that our clients are our peeps, and we take care of our peeps.”

The program also 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 4-H student who makes festive cookies for special holidays,” Peck said. “Our people are well cared for and loved by this community.”

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