New leader for senior programs
Without missing a beat, Colorado Mountain College will continue to serve meals to seniors and transport them around town despite the retirement of Deb Stewart, longtime director of senior programs. Taking her place is Gwen Stephenson, who has been working with Stewart for four weeks and is ready to take the helm.Stephenson has lived in the valley for one and a half years. She also brings eight years of experience as the executive director of House Neighborly Service, which provides service to the needy and elderly in southeast Larimer County.Similar to LIFT-UP, it provides food and clothing banks, and offers prescription help for those in need. While she was there, Stephenson also helped establish a homeless shelter.During her eight years there, she said she saw the largest growth in demand for service among people over the age of 60.Here in Garfield County, she will also face the same challenge.”I have a lot of experience working with people in crisis situations, assisting them and giving them the means to make ends meet,” she said.
Stephenson will oversee the weekly senior nutrition program that serves meals to the elderly in New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Silt and Parachute, as well as a variety of other services. The program also offers The Traveler, a van that takes seniors shopping and to appointments for a nominal fee.Stewart said in the four weeks Stephenson has been on the job she’s been a hit with the seniors.”I have a real heart for people who worked hard all their lives and are facing (old age),” Stephenson said.”I’ve drug her from one end of the county to the other” to meet seniors and the staff and volunteers involved in senior programs, Stewart said.Stephenson said she loves to spend time with seniors.
“I love to hear about their lives,” and she admires their values. “They’re so solid.”She will also face some serious challenges in her new job.As gasoline prices continue to soar, the effects of the added expense are felt in senior programs, Stewart said.”More people need it, and there are more miles to drive,” she said.Stewart joked that next week when she officially hands over to Stephenson, she will also bestow her red gas can that she takes around to meetings to solicit donations for fuel.”We’re now seeing a fuel excise tax on food costs,” she said. “We’re trying to keep meals affordable for seniors, but we may have to increase the suggested donation.”
Seniors now pay $2.50 per meal.”I want to carry on the excellent work Deb has done,” Stephenson said. “She achieved some incredible milestones.”Stephenson, who is married and has two grown children, has close ties to the valley. Her grandmother lived in Basalt, and she spent many childhood summers there.”I think it’s really important to help people keep their dignity. I think this program has done that,” she said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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