Senior citizens march for meals in downtown Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Senior citizens march for meals in downtown Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Senior citizens waving signs were joined by 34 children from the Holy Name Catholic Church Preschool who were holding signs proclaiming love for their grandparents during the first-ever Senior March on Thursday in Steamboat Springs. 

The seniors gathered in front of the Routt County Courthouse, and they were bolstered by a constant stream of honking horns as motorists drove by on Lincoln Avenue.

"More seniors need to know about what we do," said Meg Tully, Routt County Council on Aging executive director. "We thought, ‘why not have a little rally type march thing and make it kind of a spin off of March for Meals?’ We want people to be aware that we are here and that we want to serve seniors. I think a lot of seniors just don't know that we are here."

Tosia Sauter greets a group of children from the Holy Name Catholic Church Preschool who came out to support the Senior March on Thursday. Senior citizens wanted to raise awareness for vital services like Meals on Wheels. The event was organized by the Routt County Council on Aging.

The event was held in conjunction with March for Meals America, a national, month-long recognition of the Meals on Wheels program, which provides nutritious meals to millions of seniors.

In Routt County, the Meals on Wheels program is run by the Routt County Council on Aging, which provides freshly prepared nutritional meals to seniors in their homes. The organization also serves up meals four days per week to seniors in Steamboat Springs, three days per week in South Routt County and two days per week in Hayden.

Those group meals are offered at  the Steamboat Springs Community Center  on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; at the South Routt Community Center in Oak Creek on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and at the American Legion in Hayden on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Steamboat is estimated to have 5,085 seniors older than 60. That group includes 524 people who live below the poverty level on an income of $16,020 for two adults. 

To help meet the needs of that group, the Routt County Council on Aging provided 7,843 group meals and 2,554 meals to homebound seniors through Meals on Wheels last year. The Council also provided 4,291 rides for folks living across Routt County.

A recent study showed that Routt County's senior population has grown by more than 80 percent in the last decade making it the fastest-growing senior population in the country. 

Thursday's event was organized to help draw some attention to the issues and needs seniors face. Tully is hoping these types of events will bring more attention and support to the Council on Aging, which has experienced funding cutbacks in recent years.

"I don't have a lot of historical perspective," said Tully, who has been in her position for about a year. "In the past, the government funding was more beefy and some foundation funding was more beefy. We have not been cut all the way, but in some cases, 50 percent, or $5,000 here and there, and it just adds up. We are a small organization, so it has huge impacts on us."

She said cuts at the federal level have a lot of nonprofit organizations scrambling to find new sources of funding, and programs like the Routt County Council on Aging compete with more groups for charitable donations.

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The funding pressure, combined with the increasing number of senior citizens who need services in Routt County, presents challenges in the future, and that is why area seniors took to the streets Thursday.

"We are not protesting anything," said Pegi Simmerman, president of the Routt County Council on Aging board. "We want people to know that the seniors are a big part in our county, and we just want to make everyone aware that we are here to help."

Tully said the council could use more volunteers and more donations. She also invited the community to attend a March for Meals open house, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m March 26 at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

The event will include a spaghetti lunch, door prizes and a special presentation. All of the donations made during this free event will help support the Routt County Council on Aging's nutrition and transportation programs.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.