More options are on the way for homebound seniors and other older residents who need help obtaining meals.

The Shepherd’s Hand charity is teaming up with Region 10 to provide hot meals — and human contact that is as important as good nutrition — via a new program with a projected start time in mid-July.

The addition comes through Region 10’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP that, in partnership with Garey Martinez and his charity Shepherd’s Hand, will furnish and deliver hot meals under the newly christened Shepherd’s Hand Program.

The charity will be cooking and providing the food; RSVP volunteers will package and deliver it to seniors who are signed up. Alternately, enrollees who are able and want to can go to Shepherd’s Hand at 505 S. Second St. and pick up their meals, or they can arrange for curbside delivery.

Meals will be available five days a week; donations are accepted, but there is not an outright charge.

“One of the difficult parts of having a hot meal delivery program is the food service piece, the preparation, having the right kind of facility,” said Joe Walker, RSVP coordinator. “That’s where Shepherd’s Hand has that covered. Then we can focus on getting the meals and the food to the people.”

Shepherd’s Hand prepares meals in a licensed food trailer for catering directly to those who dine there, and will do the same for RSVP.

The Shepherd’s Hand Program meals do not replace the current program through Volunteers of America/Senior Community Meals. This program delivers six meals at a time, which are frozen so they can be prepared by the recipient.

“That program will continue. That is the official senior nutrition program,” said Eva Veitch, Community Living Services director at Region 10.

The Shepherd’s Hand program might not always meet the nutritional requirements under the Older Americans Act the way the frozen meal program does.

“We have to fund it a different way, but we felt like it was really important. If there was ever an opportunity to bring a hot meals program back to Montrose, we were eager to do that,” Veitch said.

She said the Shepherd’s Hand meal program is being funded through a different provision of the Older Americans Act than is Region 10’s frozen meal delivery. The pick-up option will be available to anyone 60 and older who is able to safely make it to Shepherd’s Hand.

The criteria for home-delivery will be more stringent, Veitch said.

Shepherd’s Hand and RSVP are critical to keeping seniors well-fed — but there is one more necessary component, and that is volunteers who can assist RSVP with the hot meals, as well as its other programs.

“This Shepherd’s Hand program is going to be very, very volunteer-dependent. It’s going to take a lot of volunteers. There’s not a way we can do this without volunteers,” Veitch said.

“We need volunteers,” Walker said — especially people 55 and older, because the focus is to engage older adults for the betterment of communities.

The need is not only for the Shepherd’s Hand food program, but also for the work RSVP hopes to do to benefit other organizations.

“We are trying to establish various partnerships with community organizations, one of which would be Shepherd’s Hand,” said Walker. “In addition to that, we’re working with Habitat for Humanity to try to get a handyman-type program. That would help add some of the more critical needs seniors might potentially not be able to take care of consistently, especially the minor things.”

For example, a volunteer with the appropriate experience could assist in changing a furnace filter, addressing tripping hazards, or building a ramp for wheelchairs.

“One of the benefits with RSVP is really that volunteer opportunities can be very diverse. That’s why we’re trying to establish many community partnerships with different nonprofits and government entities, to be able to have a variety so we can find the right match for any given volunteer,” Walker said.

Volunteers will undergo background checks. They are eligible for liability insurance and mileage reimbursement, as well as a meal allowance, depending on how many hours they are working in a day.

“The idea is there is some support to eliminate the expense to the volunteer,” said Walker.

“We’re going to take good care of our volunteers,” Veitch said. “We want the volunteer experience to be something that is meaningful, rewarding and impactful.”

Ideally, those who volunteer to deliver meals through the Shepherd’s Hand Program will be willing to spend a few moments with recipients, to increase their in-person contact with others, Veitch said, noting the frozen meal delivery system only brings a visitor to someone’s door a few times a month, instead of several times a week.

“We felt like it was important, especially for the higher-risk population, to have that more often,” Veitch said. “There is still a lot of food insecurity with our aging population. If they’re really frail, they need all the food they can get. If they’re having a hard time getting out, shopping and cooking, and those kinds of things, this is just going to be important for them,” she added.

“Garey (Martinez) and Shepherd’s Hand put out a really good meal. They should be pretty well fed, and they’ll have human contact. … The meal is very important, but so is the human contact.”

Martinez just introduced the community to the new home of Shepherd’s Hand, at the 505 S. Second St. location, through open houses last Friday and Saturday. He said he is pleased to be helping Region 10 get more hot meals to more people.

“They’re doing some really nice things over there,” Veitch said of the newly opened Shepherd’s Hand Center, which offers services to those in need, and meeting space for the entire community. “It’s really good food and it’s pleasant. They care about people and I’m anxious for our seniors to have a place like that to go to.”

To volunteer for RSVP, including the meal delivery program, or for more information, contact Walker at 970-765-3147, or email jwalker@region10.net.

For more information about Shepherd’s Hand, including its services and volunteer needs, call 970-275-7215.

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