Salt Lake County hopes to expand volunteer delivery of Meals on Wheels
Mayors for Meals • National effort spotlights nutrition needs of homebound.
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Along with his Meals on Wheels delivery Wednesday, Taylorsville resident Bill Moss had a surprise visitor. Taylorsville Mayor Jerry Rechtenbach personally handed him his chicken dinner.

"What'd I do? Did I die or something?" Moss wisecracked as his dachshund Ginger yipped in delight at having houseguests. Moss's next question was about Rechtenbach's preference in political parties. The two found middle ground as Rechtenbach acknowledged he was nonpartisan.

Rechtenbach joined other officials — Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore, South Jordan Mayor Scott Osborne, Alta Mayor Tom Pollard, West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder, and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams — to participate in Mayors for Meals Day and National Nutrition Month.

"Salt Lake County Aging Services has partnerships with almost 40 businesses, churches and other organizations across the county," McAdams said during a brief press conference at Cirris Systems Corp. in West Valley City.

"And there's always room for more," McAdams said, noting that one in six Utah seniors is facing hunger this year.

"The rising costs of fuel, prescription medicine and health care often force low-income seniors to choose between food and other basic needs," McAdams added. "This causes significant hardships for isolated, homebound Utahns who can't make it to a food bank."

Annette Atwood, an SMT specialist at Cirris, launched the company's volunteer Meals on Wheels effort 20 years ago, initially starting with 10 employees who gave up one lunch hour each week to deliver prepared food to seniors.

By year four, 40 workers had jumped onboard, reducing the weekly rotation to once per month. Such teamwork has helped forge relationships between departments within the company, Atwood said of surprise side benefits that result from corporate volunteerism. However, the volunteers also serve as eyes and ears for the seniors they serve, she added.

"We've had a lot of opportunities to help someone get their furnace started or chase their dogs down the street," Atwood said.

Volunteer Mitzie Huff has served meals to Taylorsville seniors one day per week for 11 years and was joined by Rechtenbach this particular Wednesday.

"One time I fixed a window," Huff said of the surprise needs she encounters.

Cirris Systems got its start in 1984, said Brent Stringham, business development director for the company that employs 53 people at its West Valley City home office.

"We really have a clan type of situation here," Stringham said of the tight-knit work community that often plays and volunteers together.

Salt Lake County has administered meals on wheels for more than 40 years, said Aging Services Director Sarah Brenna.

"We deliver about 6,800 meals a week to 1,400 seniors," Brenna said, noting that "we were one of the first in the nation to implement the program."

McAdams said he hopes to expand volunteer participation in the program.

"We're not asking for money," McAdams said. "We're asking for time."

To learn more, go to www.aging.slco.org or call 385-468-3201.

cmckitrick@sltrib.com

Twitter: @catmck