House calls

Meals-on-wheels program serves up more than lunch to local seniors

Those who run the local meals-on-wheels program say the most important part of the service might not be the hot meal that are delivered to the homes of senior citizens every day at about noon.

The most important part might be the warm smile the seniors receive on a daily basis.

"Many seniors are very isolated," said Keith Antonson, executive director of Sunset Meadows, which runs the program. "This gives them some interaction everyday. It's just someone to check at the door and see if they're OK."

Gladys Mansfield, who loads two coolers full of hot meals on a van for delivery, agreed.

"They look forward to it," she said of the more than 20 residents she visits daily. "Even if it's just a few minutes, they have someone to talk to. They need someone to talk to."

In all, about 35 to 40 senior citizens receive meals five days a week through the meals-on-wheels program.

Every month the participants of the program receive a menu of what items will be served for the upcoming month.

Antonson said they can cancel meals if they don't like what is being served.

"They can pick and choose what they want to order," he said.

A dietician examines the meals and each meal provides the recipient with one third of their daily recommended allowance of meat, fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates, Antonson said.

Each meal costs $2.50.

Antonson said the program can keep the prices low because of significant help from the taxpayers of Moffat County, from which the program is subsidized.

It also gets money through grants, he said.

There is a definite need for the program, he said.

"It's critical for the community based on the fact that there are many seniors unable to prepare meals themselves and this gives them one meal a day they can count on," he said.

Antonson said he believes the program enables some seniors to stay at home longer before having to move into a nursing home.

"One of the most important things to many seniors is maintaining their dignity and independence," he said. "(Meals-on-wheels) gives them the opportunity to remain independent as long as possible."

Mansfield, who has worked with the program for about eight years, has seen the program expand.

"It's grown," she said while maneuvering the delivery van down Craig's slushy streets. "It's gone from about 20 when I started to what it is now."

Mansfield and another drive split the delivery load, which leaves Mansfield with about 20 deliveries to make everyday.

At some of the homes, she is greeted at the door, some she just walks in and some she has to open the meal up and set it out on the person's kitchen table.

"Some I have to open it up for because they can't or they don't," she said, using some of the Alzheimer's recipients as an example. "I have to set it out for them and tell them to come eat."

She agreed with Antonson on the importance of the meals for seniors.

"For some it's possibly the only meal they'll eat," she said.

While there are some who need extra help getting their meals ready, some just want to talk, she said, which can throw her off of schedule some days.

"Some you can't get away from," she said of the conversations she has along her route.

But Mansfield said there is a reason she's been driving the van and working the meals-on-wheels program for eight years.

"I like working with seniors," she said. "I always like to feel like I treat people the way I would want my mother treated. They're a lot of fun."

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