Denver volunteers pack meals for struggling seniors
Volunteers wearing bright, red T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Ready. Set. Pack.” joined Sunday to pack 500,000 meals for struggling senior citizens in the Denver area.
This is the third year in a row that the AARP Foundation is holding a celebration of service to the community by challenging people to volunteer their time to pack the meals. Unlike in previous years, when the challenge was held only in Washington, D.C., the foundation is holding events this year in Washington, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Memphis, Tenn.
“We wanted to take it on the road,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation.
Two thousand people signed up to work at the event at Magness Arena on the University of Denver campus.
Volunteers worked in shifts, with 400 people packing the meals at a time. The event began at 8 a.m., and volunteers had packed 210,000 meals by 11:04 a.m.
Each shift lasted 90 minutes, during which the group measured out lentils and other ingredients for the meals of proteinpacked red lentil jambalaya and packed them into bags. The meals will be distributed by the Rocky Mountain Food Bank and the Denver Indian Center.
Each volunteer was expected to pack 200 meals.
“We were driving last weekend and heard an advertisement on the radio. And we thought, ‘Let’s do something to help other people,’ ” said volunteer Missy Brown, 50, of the decision she and her husband, Steve, made to join the effort.
Brown said she works in downtown Denver and sees many elderly people who are homeless. If Steve Brown, 54, hadn’t come, he said, he would “probably be doing chores and working in the yard. It’s too hot outside.”
One in seven older adults in Colorodo suffers from food insecurity, Marsh Ryerson said.
Shift volunteers were given brief training in food safety and were given hair and beard nets, aprons and gloves before they took positions at tables, where they pulled ingredients from bins and packed them into boxes.
The packed meals are nonperishable, with an extended shelf life of two years.
Credit Cards from Chase, The Hartford, United Healthcare and others sponsored the event.