Minnie and Wendy volunteer together each week at Coal Creek Meals on Wheels - they have been doing so since 2014. One of their favorite clients on their route is Larry. They deliver several meals in the low income apartment complex he lives in, so they drop off his meal with a promise to come back and visit after the other meals have been delivered. “We will sometimes see Larry watching out his window as we deliver the other meals, waiting for us to come to his door,” Wendy said. Some days, Minnie even brings her dogs with her on her delivery route, and Larry gets so excited to see them.
Larry is in a motorized chair and has limited mobility. He had a stroke a few years ago, but only recently got into physical therapy. He went for a long period of time without being able to use his right arm, but has regained use after consistent PT. Larry even built his own set of parallel bars to use during PT in his home, walking from one end to the other each day.
Larry has very few teeth, so talking and eating can sometimes be difficult. CCMOW provides soft cut up foods for each meal, and Minnie and Wendy are able to help translate when others have difficulty understanding him. Larry was supposed to get dentures, but the process has been slow. One day, when Minnie and Wendy were training two new volunteers, one of the new volunteers pointed to the note from the dentist on Larry’s fridge and said “That’s my son!” Minnie and Wendy have decided they are going to work with the new volunteers and their son to try to get Larry dentures to assist with eating, talking, and other daily activities.
“Larry is a gem,” Minnie said. “He is a great example of someone who looks forward to our meal deliveries each day.” When Larry was asked what he likes about Minnie and Wendy, he said "they're my good friends" as he tried to hold back his tears. "We only spend about 10 minutes with him, and the fact that talking about our friendship brought him to tears warms my heart," Wendy said.
Unfortunately, Larry has not always had the best caregivers. He doesn’t have any family or even anyone designated as an emergency contact, so Minnie and Wendy do their best to keep a close eye on him. On several occasions, they had found Larry alone in his bed, unable to get to his chair or even use the bathroom. They noticed his home was not clean, his bed was not made, and the caregiver was not engaging with him. Once, a driver found the caregiver wrapping her personal Christmas presents while Larry was left alone in his bed, unable to get into his chair.
When these incidents became more frequent, Wendy and Minnie alerted CCMOW staff, who began working with the social worker assigned to his apartment complex. Everyone agreed to keep a close eye on Larry while they addressed the issue with the caregiver agency. This diligence by Wendy and Minnie to ensure Larry was receiving adequate care may have saved his life.
On December 30, 2021, a grass fire started in Boulder County that would eventually be known as the Marshall Fire. It was the most destructive fire in Colorado history, killing two people and destroying many homes and other properties. The weeks leading up to the fire, Minnie and Wendy had reported the inappropriate behavior by Larry’s caregiver. He had told them she was always on her phone and ignoring his requests, or sometimes wouldn’t show up at all. When the fire started, the caregiver evacuated, leaving Larry alone in his home with no way to leave. He had to wait two hours before he could be evacuated. Fortunately, we had been monitoring Larry’s situation closely, and CCMOW staff and the local social worker were able to arrange for Larry to be temporarily moved to a care facility until the fire was put out and it was safe to return to his home.
Larry has been back in his home since the fire and has been connected with a variety of resources that continue to improve his quality of life, including a new caregiver. But many will tell you that the best part of his day is the knock on his door and the announcement of “Meals on Wheels” from Wendy and Minnie. Larry has developed a trusted relationship with Minnie and Wendy, sharing things with them that he doesn’t always share with other people. “His biggest fear is being put in a nursing home,” Minnie said. “He doesn’t want to lose his autonomy.” Volunteers like Wendy and Minnie make it possible for Larry to stay in his home where he feels safe and is able to live and age independently.