Christine Schilk spends most of her time alone with her cat Teeka, bedridden in her Englewood apartment. Unable to walk after complications following a gastrointestinal disease took chunks out of her …
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TLC Meals on Wheels covers a 95-square-mile area, bounded roughly by I-25 on the east, C-470 on the south and west, and Hampden Avenue on the north, with some leeway north to Evans Avenue.
Anyone over age 60 can automatically qualify for visits from TLC. People under 60 are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Clients with the means are invited to pay up to the full cost of a meal, which is $4. Nobody is turned away for inability to pay, however, and nearly half of TLC’s clients pay nothing at all.
TLC is always eager for more volunteers in a variety of roles.
For more information, call 303-798-7642 or visit tlcmealsonwheels.org.
Christine Schilk spends most of her time alone with her cat Teeka, bedridden in her Englewood apartment. Unable to walk after complications following a gastrointestinal disease took chunks out of her leg and back, the former nurse who once made a living caring for others now depends on others to care for her.
But when Geno Pauline, a driver with TLC Meals on Wheels, knocks on her door, her face brightens, and she feels the loneliness and despair lift.
“I don’t give up hope because of people like Geno,” Schilk, 61, said.
Pauline, a former University of Colorado professor and administrator, drives a route through Englewood most weekdays, bringing lunch, groceries and other items to 20 or so disabled or elderly people. For some, like Schilk, the companionship is almost more nourishing than the food.
“I have no doubt I would be dead if it weren’t for Meals on Wheels,” Schilk said. “They’re more than angels. They’re my friends.”
TLC Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit based in west Centennial, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Every weekday, hundreds of volunteers comb a vast swath of the south metro area, delivering close to 500 meals to people in need.
“You don’t have to be poor” to get the group’s services, said Diane McClymonds, the group’s executive director. “The idea is to help people remain independent in their own homes. We can help feed someone for a year for the price of a night in the hospital or a week in a nursing home.”
TLC’s efforts are priceless for Leonard Smith, down the street from Schilk’s apartment. The 83-year-old, nearly blind, has trouble cooking for his son, who lost both legs to disease. Smith is also now responsible for his great-grandson, whose parents are adrift in drug addiction.
“I want to leave this house to my kids,” Smith said. “Meals on Wheels means we get good food, toilet paper, you name it. It’s the one thing I can depend on in life right now. It means I don’t have to sell my home. I can keep it in the family.”
Delivering and receiving
TLC’s staff includes chefs and nutritionists who ensure wholesome, nutritious meals, McClymonds said. The group operates out of the kitchen at the old Ames Elementary School in Centennial, turning out 2,500 meals a week, many specialized to meet dietary restrictions for diabetics, vegetarians and others.
TLC is branching out into providing other services, McClymonds said, such as providing lawn care and home repairs that can help keep code enforcement at bay. TLC also provides pet food, as well as gift delivery during the holiday season.
The group’s primary service is simply love, according to Felice Cottle, who at 92 years old has been involved with TLC for 38 years.
“Delivering meals is second, as far as I’m concerned,” Cottle said. “These people become family. It’s not all about giving, either. I get so much love back.”
TLC, funded largely by donations, does not rely on federal dollars, and does not have a waiting list for its services. But recent proposals to slash federal safety net funds could spell trouble for the group’s clients, McClymonds said.
“We’re one of a host of services that our clients rely on,” McClymonds said. “The whole network needs to stay intact for people to stay in their homes.”
The situation could get tougher for people like Schilk and Smith, McClymonds said.
“People are living longer,” McClymonds said. “They’re running out of money sooner. Baby boomers are aging. We’re a mobile society, and people move far from their parents. Even those who do live close to their parents, they work long hours and can’t always make sure Mom gets lunch.”
If federal safety net programs start drying up, McClymonds said, she’ll face much stiffer competition for the donation and grant money the group relies on.
Feel the love
Driving down Englewood’s tree-lined streets, past tidy bungalows now selling for nearly half a million dollars, it can be hard to imagine the struggles behind closed doors, said Pauline toward the end of his route.
Pauline’s whole family is service-oriented, he said. Two of his daughters run a community development program in Uganda. Suffering is global, he said.
“I’ve always been blessed,” Pauline said. “I’ve always had a good job. I haven’t had to worry. But you never know what your neighbor might be going through.”
The struggle is real, Pauline said, but so is the love. In the span of two hours, Geno Pauline delivers 20 miracles.
“Every day, I just can’t wait to get back out there,” he said.
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