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Airmen help feed local elderly

Senior Airmen Joseph Todd and Eric Paradis, both Defense Red Switch technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron, sort through meals Nov. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colo. They volunteered for Meals on Wheels to deliver food to the elderly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

Senior Airmen Joseph Todd and Eric Paradis, both Defense Red Switch technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron, sort through meals Nov. 4, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo. They volunteered for Meals on Wheels to deliver food to the elderly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

Senior Airmen Eric Paradis and Joseph Todd, both Defense Red Switch technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron, bring food up to a Meals on Wheels recipient’s apartment Nov. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both Airmen participated in the program to deliver meals to the elderly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

Senior Airmen Eric Paradis and Joseph Todd, both Defense Red Switch technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron, bring food up to a Meals on Wheels recipient’s apartment Nov. 4, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Both Airmen participated in the program to deliver meals to the elderly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

Senior Airman Joseph Todd, Defense Red Switch technician with the 21st Communications Squadron, delivers two dinners while volunteering Nov. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He brought food to the elderly as part of the Meals on Wheels program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

Senior Airman Joseph Todd, Defense Red Switch technician with the 21st Communications Squadron, delivers two dinners while volunteering Nov. 4, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo. He brought food to the elderly as part of the Meals on Wheels program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

Senior Airmen Eric Paradis and Joseph Todd, both Defense Red Switch technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron, sort through meals Nov. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They volunteered for Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers food to local seniors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

Senior Airmen Eric Paradis and Joseph Todd, both Defense Red Switch technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron, sort through meals Nov. 4, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo. They volunteered for Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers food to local seniors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

Senior Airmen Joseph Todd and Eric Paradis, both Defense Red Switch technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron, wait outside a senior’s door to deliver her meal Nov. 4, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both Airmen participated in Meals on Wheels to deliver food to the elderly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

Senior Airmen Joseph Todd and Eric Paradis, both Defense Red Switch technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron, wait outside a senior’s door to deliver her meal Nov. 4, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Both Airmen participated in Meals on Wheels to deliver food to the elderly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shellie-Anne Espinosa)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- With Thanksgiving just around the corner, there is a reminder that about 15 percent of seniors living in the state of Colorado struggle with hunger daily. Meals on Wheels tracks these numbers and helps to alleviate the lack of food through sending meals to those who need them. By volunteering for programs such as this, Airmen have the opportunity to help battle hunger among the elderly.

Peterson Air Force Base fills one spot each week through Silver Key, an organization that coordinates Meals on Wheels for Colorado Springs. Airman 1st Class Jared Norris and Senior Airman Michael Vialpando, knowledge management technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron, coordinate the program for Team Pete.

Meals on Wheels, a program started in 1954, provides meals to the elderly to help extend their independence and health as they age. Over 2.4 million seniors benefit from this program annually.

According to the Meals on Wheels website, the people behind the program believe the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks their volunteers provide protect the elderly against the three biggest threats of aging: hunger, isolation and loss of independence. The meals provided by the program can mean the difference between seniors being able to stay in their homes or being forced to live in a nursing facility.

Vialpando pointed out that there are many volunteer opportunities out in the community, but he feels Meals on Wheels gives Airmen a great chance to do something where you can improve yourself along the way.

“A lot of these people that we go to are veterans, so there’s been a couple of times that I’d volunteer and I’d be there 30 or 40 minutes because these people don’t really have anybody to talk to since they’re at their homes by themselves,” Vialpando said. “You hear all these stories and you really connect with them at a different level. So it’s a great opportunity to not only help them out but you’re learning and helping yourself out, improving yourself with everybody else that you meet.”

Norris says the interest in the program is very high.

“It’s five to ten minutes after I send out the email asking for volunteers that I have to send another email saying all positions have been filled,” Norris said.

“We have so many people that have done it for so long that they’re willing to jump right on it,” Vialpando said.

Two Airmen who jump right on volunteering for Meals on Wheels are Senior Airmen Eric Paradis and Joseph Todd, Defense Red Switch technicians with the 21st Communications Squadron. They have made it part of their mission to sacrifice their own lunch hours to deliver meals to those in need.

“Being here, (there are a lot) of veterans,” Paradis said. “Growing up military, you’re always wanting to give back to them.”

Having the same route each time also allows for the volunteers to get to know the residents who receive meals. The two hours they dedicate toward the program allows them to deliver hot and cold meals to 13 different residences.

“It’s so much easier now that we know where we’re going and recognize some of the faces,” Todd said.

“We try to volunteer every month so they don’t forget our faces - so they see it’s a familiar person coming,” Paradis added.

Todd and Paradis are thankful their unit allows them time off to participate with Meals on Wheels.

“It’s kind of like a little break and we also get to help people out,” Paradis said.

As far as how often the pair plan on doing Meals on Wheels, Todd said, “Every chance I get.”

For more information on how to volunteer, call 719-556-2197.

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