There is something of a misnomer in the expression, the ‘Golden Years.’ For millions of Americans, there is little gold, even gold dust in this time of their lives. For them, survival---daily survival---trumps nostalgia. But for Puebloan Steve Nawrocki, survival doesn’t exclude dignity, an ingredient he includes in the work he does for seniors.
Every day that he punches the clock as the Executive Director of Pueblo’s Senior Resource Development Agency, Nawrocki is focused not only the county’s growing senior population but also on those well beyond Pueblo. “We serve almost thirty-some counties,” he said in a recent phone interview. That includes up to two-thousand seniors in Pueblo and Colorado Springs.
Nawrocki’s agency prepares and delivers meals across the city and beyond. The meals meet all government guidelines for healthy eating, all low in sodium, sugars, and starch. Special accommodations are also made for those living with dental issues. Their food is delivered in more easy-to-chew portions. But as much as the food, is the human contact between drivers and those receiving the meals. Human contact, he said, is important for those who often have no one else. Friendships are nurtured this way.
Another component of SRDA’s mission is providing transportation to seniors who have no other options. Numbers for both meals and rides for seniors are both holding steady. “We feel fortunate that nobody has tested positive for COVID-19.” While the agency has not gone unaffected by a pandemic that remains a worldwide threat, “we’re maintaining services,” and clientele.
Nawrocki got his start in giving back as a young man. “I was in VISTA two years working in barrios of south Texas,” he said. VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America, “gave me purpose in my life.” The VISTA years, said Nawrocki, reshuffled his priorities. He’s now been in some form of service to others for the last 42 years.
Nawrocki is quick to share any praise that might come with the job. “We have a lot of volunteers in our agency,” he said. A lot of the volunteers are Pueblo born and raised. They know Pueblo, he said, and “after retirement they give back to their communities.”
The best known component of Nawrocki’s work is ‘Meals on Wheels,’ home delivery of a single meal for a senior each weekday. Across the network, he estimated that “we served over 30,000 people.” Many recipients live well beyondPueblo’s city limits. While some deliveries are off the beaten path, some are made just across the street from his office to the Vail Hotel, once the architectural gem of downtown Pueblo, now repurposed as a senior living center.
Nawrocki is a man of numbers when it comes to reeling off statistics, especially when it comes to seniors. It’s a skill derived from having served a couple of terms on Pueblo’s City Council. He also ran unsuccessfully for Mayor. He will tell you that 18 percent of Pueblo is in the senior category, age 62 or over. “Our community falls within the spectrum of being an elderly community.” He’ll also tell you that “the fastest growing spectrum of our aging population is over 85.”
To ensure that Nawrocki’s ‘customers’ don’t go hungry over the weekend whenSRDA’s office are closed and nothing is delivered, drivers also deliver two frozen meals each Friday for Saturday and Sunday dinner.
To manage things as carefully as possible during the pandemic, Nawrocki’s agencyhad to make adjustment. Before the pandemic, SRDA, invited seniors to meet at its downtown location for yoga, tai chi, art classes, cards and to use the exercise equipment. Fear of exposure has changed that. But erring on the side of caution has paid off. Everyone who was around before COVID-19 is still around.
For more information on Pueblo’s Senior Resource Development Agency, said Nawrocki, visit www.SRDA.org.