The refrigerators that Ravalli Council on Aging depend on for their growing Meals on Wheels program date back to the last century.
Some are on their third generation of refrigerants. Many have pinholes in the coils that create challenges in keeping the units operating. One sports a dent as a reminder that a car once crashed through the kitchen wall.
“We can trace them all back to the ’97 or ’98,” said Ravalli Council on Aging executive director Paul Travitz. “They are feeling their age.”
On Tuesday, Travitz celebrated the news that employees at Hamilton’s GSK facility selected the Council on Aging for its annual GSK IMPACT awards program that comes with a $10,000 gift.
A large portion of that gift will be used to replace the refrigerator at the Stevensville Senior Center, which prepares both a community meal and Meals on Wheels under the auspices of the Ravalli Council on Aging.
“It’s the one that needs to be replaced the most,” Travitz said. “We’ll probably cannibalize that one to keep these other ones running.”
While the Council on Aging receives federal funding to help offset costs for the Meals on Wheels’ programs food and delivery, there are no public monies for capital expenses like replacing a refrigerator.
“This gift is very much appreciated,” he said.
The Council on Aging was one of 19 nationwide selected to receive $10,000 charitable gifts as part of #GivingTuesday. Each year, the company leaves the decision on what nonprofit will receive the gifts to its employees.
Employees select nonprofits that help their neighbors live healthier lives by offering physical activity, education and a variety of social services.
GSK Hamilton’s Pamela Sager said the process began at the end of July with employees making nominations of their favorite Bitterroot Valley nonprofits.
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Hamilton’s GSK employees approached the process with enthusiasm. The facility had the highest levels of employee engagement through the nomination and voting process of any GSK facility in the country.
The impact that Ravalli Council of Aging had on the community pushed it up over the top for the award this year.
“Ravalli Council on Aging was the only nonprofit that has the potential of impacting everyone in the valley at some time in their lives,” said GSK’s Cindy Taylor. “Not everyone will get a pet from the Humane Society or spend time on the river. I think the fact that this organization touches so many was really important.”
Besides its Meal on Wheels program, the Council on Aging also offers financial-planning aid to seniors, operates the Bitterroot Bus, has a medical equipment loan program and other services to help seniors stay independent.
“We’re all so happy they were selected,” Taylor said.
At this point, Ravalli Council on Aging serves about 38,000 Meals on Wheels a year, but Travitz said their numbers are on the rise. Last year, their Meals on Wheels program grew by 36%. This year, it’s up by 13%.
The people who use the program are 72 years old and up. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, Travitz expects the demand for the program will grow also.
GSK’s employees selected Hamilton’s SAFE for the $10,000 gift last year.
“We’re all so thrilled to have this opportunity,” Sager said. “It’s been so cool to be able to make this kind of impact in the community.”
GSK also allows its employees to volunteer two days a year at local nonprofits and matches its employees' monetary donations.
Last April, GSK announced a $100 million expansion at its manufacturing facility in Hamilton to increase the production of a key component of the adjuvant system that’s used in several of GSK’s vaccines, including SHINGRIX, the highly popular shingles vaccine that was FDA approved in 2017.
The company expects the expansion to take up to three years to complete.
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