Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz recently visited the Bear Lake Senior Community Center in Montpelier because he found out it was going to cut back or even eliminate its home delivered meals to the elderly. He didn't want that to happen and thought it would be perfect to Pay It Forward.
"I don't think people really realize the need," said director Connie Wright.
The facility was built in 1998 and serves meals to the elderly population in the Bear Lake Valley, those that can make it into the cafeteria. But they also deliver meals twice a week to those that are homebound.
"We deliver to over 30 people, but we only get reimbursed from the state 12 of those that qualify," said Wright.
They've been operating with a trust fund left by the namesake of the building, Grace Theil, but that money is running out and very few donations come in.
"A lot of it's based on donation and fundraising," said Wright.
"So do you run the fear of possibly cutting back in some places?" asked Kunz.
"Yeah, our first one was home delivery because we are losing money," said Wright.
Because the recipients are over the age of 60, the drivers can only ask for a donation and many of the elderly cannot afford it. So when the center announced the home delivered meals program would be eliminated, they had seven area ranches and businesses donate. This will keep the home delivered meal program running a little longer.
"They get a nutritious meal. A lot of them are alone. They don't cook for themselves. There is just nobody to visit. So the drivers, when they come, it's a person they can talk to," said Wright.
Drivers Cheri and Kennon Crane have been delivering the home meals for about two years. They see the need.
"They are so happy to see us come with this food, that a lot of them really need. Some of them are in very poor health. They don't cook anymore," said Cheri.
And this opportunity provides the drivers a way to do a welfare check.
"And some of these people that we visit with, we may be the only people they have contact with," said Kennon.
They've had some wonderful experiences. They were recently ordered by the state to bring the meals into the home of one man, and since that time, he has made a complete turnaround.
"He's not even the same individual. The food has made such a big difference in his life and now he's laughing. He's got a twinkle in his eye," said Cheri. "And you can see that difference in the lives of so many of these people. This program is so crucial and I'm really hoping we can keep it going."
It's 60 mile round trip for each of two vehicles every Wednesday and every Friday. One route covers the west side of the Bear Lake Valley from Fish Haven to Bern. And the other covers the east side from Dingle to Georgetown. It takes about two hours.
Kory Carling pulls up outside the building. He's with Mountain America Credit Union. That means it's time to Pay It Forward.
"St. Charles is 15 miles away," said Wright, standing next to center president Jean Alleman.
"Connie and Jean, how are you?" asked Carling as he walked into the cafeteria and interrupted the interview.
"Hi," said Wright.
"Hello," said Alleman.
"Good, I'm Kory with Mountain American Credit Union," he said.
"Nice to meet you," said Wright.
"And we've heard about all the good things you are doing in your community and sometimes how challenging it is. So because of that, we're here to Pay it Forward. So I've brought with me today, $500 in cash," said Carling.
"Wow!" said Alleman.
"That I know you guys can use to continue to provide meals for you community and make it a better place. So we'd like to Pay it Forward," said Carling, handing over an envelope of cash.
"Thanks you so much!" said Wright with tears in her eyes.
"Thank you. Wow!" said Alleman.
"Can we give you a hug?" asked Wright.
"You betcha," said Carling.
"This will be put to good use," said Alleman.
"You bet," said Carling.
"Oh man," said Wright.
"We don't want the program going away because there is a need out there and this is going to help continue the program," said Alleman.
"This is at least three, four months gas, fuel for those cars that will get the meals," said Wright.
"Super cool," said Carling.
"Yeah, thank you so much," said Wright.
"You're welcome," said Carling.
"Wow," said Alleman.
They plan to hold a fundraiser in September, where people can adopt a senior to help offset some of the cost.
"Pay It Forward" airs the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "Pay It Forward" on the right side of our website and fill out the form, or send an email to KIDK Eyewitness News 3 anchor Todd Kunz at firstname.lastname@example.org.