Before the COVID pandemic, senior citizens were gathering three times a week in both Norwood and the West End, the communities of Naturita and Nucla, for senior lunches. It was a way for the elders to meet up, enjoy a meal and celebrate community. Things changed when the pandemic shutdowns began. 

Then, the lunches continued, but they had to be packaged and picked-up, to avoid spreading the illness to the senior population. The old folks couldn’t eat together and visit like they used to.

Later, as restrictions let up, a mandate was ordered that the senior meals cook was required to be vaccinated in order to prepare the senior lunches. As a result of not wanting to receive the shot, and in a rural and remote area where staffing can be difficult anyway, the program was left without a cook.

That’s when Mom’s Meals started. Mom’s Meals was a way to keep senior lunches going, only some seniors are now reporting it’s just not the same. Mom’s Meals are a pre-packaged meal service that is trucked into Norwood and Nucla. The elders have said in a recent community survey they don’t enjoy the meals as much as the ones cooked for them on site in their own communities. 

Other bumps in the road have also happened the last few years, with the lists being instated for reservations. Some may have heard that Mrs. Knickerbocker, Nucla’s beloved retired English teacher who is now 99 years old, was refused a meal because she was not on the list for the week she attended. No longer can seniors drop in and simply pay for a meal and visit with their friends. 

Since that incident, those who have a connection to the senior meals program are hoping for less bureaucracy and more compassion and common sense. 

Senior meals are still happening the last Friday of the month, and they are free, sponsored by Region 10, even if they aren’t as good as the old days.

However, last Friday, teens from the True North Youth Program brought some joy to the senior meals program. The kids worked all day helping to pull off a homemade spaghetti dinner for those in the West End. Complete with salad (courtesy of Michele Blunt) and rolls and pies, the event was a success. Tablecloths and flowers were also provided. 

In the past Volunteers of America partnered with Region 10 to sponsor the meals. That is now changing with Volunteers of America pulling out, due to the remoteness of the local area and the challenges that come along with the territory. 

Local citizens hope the program not only remains, but thrives. Now needed is a cook, who is preferably vaccinated, if the Mom’s Meals, which the seniors still don’t love, are to be discontinued. Also needed will be volunteers for other tasks. And, the Nucla building, which the seniors own, is in need of some serious repair after years of normal wear and tear. 

The Local Food Initiative, a subcommittee of the Telluride Foundation, has been working to end hunger, educate folks on nutrition, promote local farmers, and encourage gardening and sustainability. They hosted a meeting Monday to focus on senior meals and the future of the program in both communities. 

Doylene Garvey, who’s been an advocate for senior meals over the years, told The Norwood Post she is grateful for the county commissioners and Region 10’s continued support. She hopes senior meals will go forward in the best way possible. 

“I am hopeful that the seniors can get back to their weekly lunch meals for our area seniors. Until that happens, I hope that we can enjoy our once a month free meal,” Garvey said.