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Copper Country Senior Meals announces new leadership

New officers are putting their vision into place quickly at Copper Country Senior Meals. Executive Director Kathleen Harter and Director of Operations Rich Simpson are focusing heavily on engaging events that return the organization to its roots of ensuring the elderly build strong connections close to home.

All community meals sites are open again, and Simpson says they are a key cog in the group’s new direction.

We’re very excited. This program allows socialization for our seniors as well as a nutritious meal at the same time. So, what we are able to do is really hit the seniors with that benefit of both that socialization and nutrition, accomplishing our goals.

Other events are actively being planned.

The full press release is below.

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Over the last month, newly appointed Executive Director Kathleen Harter and Director of Operations Rich Simpson have been working to understand Copper Country Senior Meals and create a vision of what the future will look like for the non-profit organization.

“I am truly inspired by what I’ve experienced so far,” Harter said. “The people in our office and facilities care so much and the participants I’ve had the chance to interact with are so thankful for the time we get to spend together.”

“We’ve only been here a few weeks, but the letters I’ve already seen from our participants have really driven home the mission for me,” Simpson added. “We want to continue to allow people to maintain their independence for as long as possible.”

The duo have been busy keeping the program’s operations moving along smoothly, getting to know the devoted staff who prepare, deliver, and serve meals five days a week, meeting seniors along the many routes in Houghton and Keweenaw counties, and constructing their future vision.

The vision is based on the same things that have made this organization great for decades – providing seniors with nutritious food, providing daily wellness checks and opportunities for socialization. Right now, that is highlighted by serving about 200 meals a day to the homes of residents in Houghton and Keweenaw counties. Each meal includes an opportunity for the delivery driver to do a wellness check. With restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 loosening, congregate meal sites are now reopening for seniors.

“What we’re seeing here is wonderful,” Harter said. “We want to do even more by expanding the depth and breadth of where we are able to meet the needs of our seniors.”

That could include more congregate meal sites, new routes for home delivery, additional daily meals being added to the mix, or creating social events or meals in the evening.

“Everything we do comes back to socialization and nutrition,” Simpson said. “We need to change the perception of what we are so people realize we’re aiming to improve the health and socialization of our entire senior community.”

Two of the most common misconceptions focus on who is eligible and what kind of food is cooked. Copper Country Senior Meals provides freshly made meals that meet nutritional requirements and are excellent tasting. Seniors over 60 years of age are eligible to attend Congregate Meal Site locations where they can socialize and enjoy a hot meal together. An important aspect of the Copper Country Senior Meals program is encouraging and supporting socialization of our senior community. Home-bound seniors are eligible for meal delivery within the current distribution area. The program is donation based, with the suggested donation of $4.00 for either a congregate or home-delivered meal. However, no-one will ever be denied a meal if they are unable to pay.

“Our staff takes great pride in cooking and delivering delicious and healthy meals every day” Harter said. “It’s been a joy to witness the daily interactions that occur between seniors and staff and how genuinely everyone cares about and serves the elderly. We’re looking forward to the day when we can expand our meal deliveries and increase the number of seniors we serve.”

While the organizational vision and daily logistics are being reviewed by leadership and staff, the first big step toward an expanded future is welcoming additional employees. Currently, Copper Country Senior Meals is hiring key positions like drivers and cooks.

Harter spent the last 18 years with Keweenaw National Historical Park, working in interpretation, education and customer service. In 2018, Harter graduated from Adler University with a Masters Degree in Nonprofit Management with an emphasis on food equity. Additionally, she served on the board for Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly and has regularly volunteered to help the senior community in our region. Simpson most recently worked at Copper Country Mental Health, was the Facilities Manager for Olympic Steel, and also has a variety of experiences in the food industry. Simpson enjoys mentoring and working with people of all ages, teaching life skills, and supporting and serving the community. The two new hires come after the retirement of longtime director Jennifer Szubielak.

Learn more about Copper Country Senior Meals at coppercountryseniormeals.org.

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