How meal programs for seniors are making a difference in El Paso CountyOct 30, 2023 10:43AM ● By Lisa Lowdermilk
Eating right isn’t always easy. Microwavable TV dinners rarely contain the nutrients needed to thrive, while cooking takes time, money and effort that many simply don’t have. Fortunately, charitable organizations specialize in lending a helping hand.
Meals on Wheels began in Britain during World War II to provide sustenance for people who had lost their homes. It later expanded to other countries, including the U.S., Canada, Australia and Ireland. In 1954, Margaret Toy, a social worker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, spearheaded a program designed to provide seniors and other homebound individuals with nutritious meals. In doing so, Toy and others like her cared for individuals who otherwise would have starved.
Today, many organizations are dedicated to Toy’s mission of providing friendship and food to those in need, including several in El Paso and Teller Counties.
DINING BY DELIVERY
Silver Key, founded in 1970, provides a variety of meal services. Their Meals on Wheels program provides nutritious home-delivered dinners to homebound customers 60 years and older living in the Pikes Peak Region. Crab cakes, honey curry chicken, stuffed bell peppers, chicken salad sandwiches and a new quinoa salad are among their most popular entrees. And the price for such substantial fare is not prohibitive. Home-delivered meals are just $9.75, which includes the price of delivery.
Silver Key also offers food and fellowship to seniors through its Connections Café program. These cafés invite seniors who aren’t homebound to enjoy hot, nutritious meals and socialization for a suggested donation of $3.50. There are 13 Connections Cafés scattered throughout Colorado Springs, Monument and Woodland Park. Weekly frozen meal pickup in Falcon and Calhan occurs on Tuesdays.
Between Connections Cafés and Meals on Wheels, 146 Silver Key volunteers donated 2,000 hours and served 8,900 meals in August 2023 alone. On average, 77 Meals on Wheels drivers volunteer their services.
“We couldn’t do any of this without our volunteers,” said Cindy Carvell, 53, director of community-based services for Silver Key.
But food and friendship are far from the only services volunteers provide. Caring individuals refer clients to a variety of other Silver Key services, including grief counseling, hearing aid fittings and vision screenings.
“When we do an assessment with those clients, we’re also able to determine other areas where Silver Key can help them,” Carvell said. These services provide invaluable support to seniors across El Paso and Teller counties.
“Many of our clients will call us to say thank you. They have nothing but good things to say about our volunteers,” Carvell said. “And our café attendants are amazing. They really know their clients—they know when it’s their birthday and genuinely care about their well-being.”
MEALS FOR MEDICAL MALADIES
Project Angel Heart is another option available to those living with a serious illness, such as cancer, dementia or multiple sclerosis.
Founded in 1991, Project Angel Heart began as a way for founder Charles Robbins to help friends suffering from HIV/AIDS. It later expanded to include individuals with any life-threatening illness. Meals are free of charge and are delivered to clients living in El Paso and other counties along I-25. Last year, Project Angel Heart delivered over 600,000 meals to more than 4,000 people across Colorado.
“This year, Project Angel Heart will prepare and home-deliver 700,000 medically tailored meals to Coloradans living with severe illnesses like cancer, heart failure, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS and more. We believe that everyone should have access to high-quality nutrition, especially when they’re sick,” said Kristy Adams, 50, director of marketing and communications.
Project Angel Heart is committed to providing delicious meals that meet a wide variety of dietary needs.
“Our meals are medically tailored to each client,” Adams said. “Our chefs work with registered dieticians to ensure each meal meets our clients’ unique dietary needs.” She cited the example of someone with kidney disease needing lower potassium and phosphorus.
“Because tomatoes are high in potassium, we substitute red pepper sauce instead. That way, our clients still get a flavorful dish that supports their well-being.”
“I can’t say enough about Project Angel Heart,” said oncology patient Elizabeth, 58. “During chemo, I struggled so much. I started receiving Project Angel Heart meals, though, and everything changed. I had more energy. I slept better. I was finally getting what my body needed to get through treatment.”
“I feel the difference with Project Angel Heart meals. I’m getting the nutrition I need to have a good day,” added Kaloea, another client.
DINNERS FOR DECADES
The Salvation Army meets local needs with savory and filling food in an atmosphere filled with camaraderie and conversation. This organization has served the Colorado Springs community for an astonishing 134 years. They are the largest provider of poverty relief in El Paso County.
“We have people who eat here every day. They love eating here because they feel loved, they feel seen, they feel valued,” said community relations director Jeane Turner, 57.
Unsurprisingly, the holidays are the Salvation Army’s busiest times, with thousands of meals served each year on Thanksgiving and Christmas alone. But a hot, balanced meal isn’t only available on special days. The Salvation Army also offers lunch and dinner at 908 Yuma Street from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. each weekday for only $3 per meal. If you’d like a literal taste of what they’re all about, they offer a free community meal on the second Thursday of each month that features a fun theme, music and door prizes.
And the demand for their services keeps on growing. Last year saw 12,781 families served for the first time, which equates to 4,527 more people than in 2021. Most of their clients are working poor families and seniors struggling with food insecurity. The Salvation Army relies heavily on volunteers for all their programs, including preparing and serving meals each day. Last year, 20,000 volunteers contributed more than 60,000 volunteer hours. This generosity with time, energy and resources has kept the Salvation Army actively assisting the community since 1889.
To apply for assistance or for more information about volunteering for any of these programs, you can contact them at:
Mon-Fri: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Project Angel Heart
Mon-Fri: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
& Sat: 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Mon-Fri: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.