VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System
Donated meals fuel health care heroes
It wasn’t long after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide Stay-At-Home order when VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System (VA ECHCS) received its first bulk meal donation from nearby café, Etai’s, on March 30, 2020. Since then, food began pouring in from countless restaurants and has totaled more than 15,000 meals delivered to date.
While several restaurants have struggled to stay in business recently, essential workers have been challenged to find healthy meals while working long shifts. What used to be a simple trip to the grocery store has quickly become a complicated endeavor to navigate through the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19.
Despite lean times in the community, organizations like Frontline Foods and Feeding Colorado Heroes have united with a variety of vendors to support both restaurant workers and health care heroes. "It has been refreshing to see the community come together during such a difficult time," said Gretchen TeBockhorst, co-founder of Feeding Colorado Heroes. "The restaurants with which we've partnered were thrilled to support the VA hospital team. Knowing that their nourishing meals were feeding such important people helped to make difficult times a little better," TeBockhorst added. Feeding Colorado Heroes donated 800 meals to VA ECHCS and more than 4,500 in total to the state's health care community.
“This program is such in important piece to fighting this COVID battle; providing these meals has been such a gift to these frontline employees so they are able to take care of themselves in order to take care of our Veterans,” according to Eva Gergely, VA ECHCS Voluntary Services Chief.
Gergely and her Voluntary Services team have often been the first point of contact for the delivery of the thousands of meals donated to VA ECHCS recently. On any given day in recent months, you could spot the team, along with Employee Engagement Officer Kristen Luevanos, wheeling carts packed with snacks and treats throughout the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center (RMR VAMC) or driving to outlying clinics to serve piping hot meals to staff.
Since March, everything from pasta, sandwiches, tacos, salad, donuts and coffee have fueled VA ECHCS essential workers across the medical center and outlying clinics.
“It has been such a delight delivering these meals to the different departments and seeing the faces on the staff,” Gergely added. “Many of them were in aww or disbelief that someone was thinking about them, and so they really appreciated the meals.”
Along with Gergely, several VA ECHCS staff members are excited to now have a list of restaurants they’ve been able to enjoy through these donations so they can pay it forward in the future.