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Get to know your community hub for active older adults! Our Senior Center blog features work from staff and community members, as well as our "In the Spotlight" interview series. If you would like to contribute to the blog or participate in our comments sections, please contact the moderator directly. 

The Drop in With Debbie featured blog post will be available on the 15th of every month. Check back on the 15th to read more of Debbie's LSC and Longmont adventures!


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Vital Longmont Services: Drop in With Debbie, November Edition

by Erica Illingworth11/15/2018 7:00 PM
Updated: 12/26/2019

Hello Readers,

As young people, what is one of our greatest dreams? For many, it was to “be on our own”. One of my aspirations was that I would be like Mary Tyler Moore in That Girl – independent - with my own apartment. Well, as life played out, I rented several apartments until I married and now this old senior gal is living alone again. I love my days. Not wealthy, I live within my budget on a small income. My needs are met and I am at a wonderful stage of my life. Were you able to fulfill any of your young dreams? What were your ambitions?

Some may see this as a contradiction, but I live “independently” and “I need help”. What does it mean to “live independently”? Is there a contradiction between feeling independent and still having the loving support of others? The definition* of “independent” says “free from outside control; not under someone’s authority” and “not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence”. Well, based on those two statements, I am independent. However here is where some would contradict my view of independence - I could not live the contended life I do without the kindness of those that I have surrounded myself with.

Debbie's daughter StephanieFirst and foremost, is always my daughter, Stephanie, and her family. She, her husband, children and mother-in-law have been so kind to me as I settled into my new home here in Longmont. They live one door away and I know that I can call on them if an emergency arises day or night. Do you have a support system in place? What are your challenges?

I live in a 240 square foot tiny house. I cook, clean, do my own laundry, garden in my outdoor plant boxes; I do the basics in the course of a day. Conversely, some chores are a challenge to me. Grocery shopping is something I can no longer manage without help. Fortunately, I have Cultivate. I email my grocery list on Sunday, and every Tuesday morning a Cultivate volunteer delivers my groceries to me. I wondered what motivates someone to do that and I spent some time with the agency’s executive director, Chrysti Britt, who says, “serving with Cultivate is personal”.  Chrysti Britt, Cultivate executive director

Over the years she had watched her mom provide care when needed for Chrysti’s grandpa - and support his need for independence. “This job, for me, is an extension of what my mom modeled in her home. Seniors are important members of our community,” she said. “It is sad when they are isolated.” Chrysti feels strongly that aging is not and should not be a negative process.

Another Cultivate service I use is Ice Busters. Jill and Ron, on snowy days, drive by my house and if my family had to leave for work early or did not get home until later in the day to shovel, this couple shovels my ramp and a path through the family driveway so that I am able to come and go safely. I always make sure to open my door, no matter how cold, to thank them for this kind generous service that they do for me.

Lydia and Ken delivering groceries for CultivateThe Cultivate saga would not be complete without telling you about Lydia Tafoya. The day I met Lydia, I was sick in bed and Lydia showed up at my door for her first visit to deliver groceries. With all the bags, she had to maneuver her way around my wheelchair as I laid in bed embarrassed and ill. That was over a year ago, and our relationship has grown to the point that I think of Lydia as family. We’ve shared a year of trials, joys, lunch and hugs and she continues to faithfully bring my groceries each Tuesday morning, something I could not do without her help.

Lydia’s mother and father began the tradition of giving years before. Kenneth and Lovella Barhite were traveling missionaries after Ken retired from Rocky Flats Plant in Denver. Lydia tells of her parents’ world travels to help build churches, homes and other needed projects in many different countries. Then health issues kept them closer to home but it did not stop their giving expeditions. Locally, they delivered groceries for folks who needed help. As well, they served Meals on Wheels lunches and served food at a shelter. Lovella passed away in 2002 and to share this time with her father, now 97, Lydia and Ken, together, have been delivering groceries for more than 16 years.

“I grew up in a home where my parents were Christian-oriented and giving of themselves,” Lydia, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), age 59 and a resident of Longmont, recalls. She said she wanted to continue the tradition. Lydia is a mother of six children and one of them, like me, uses a wheelchair to maneuver. When I ask why she volunteers, she said, “It’s very rewarding and people are so appreciative. You build a rapport.” I feel privileged to have gotten to know her and welcome her into my home.

If you know me well, you are quite aware that I am a voracious reader and a wanna-be artist. I loveLibrary volunteer Loraine Mandelko bringing art books to Debbie looking at art books. There is usually one problem. Those books are larger than the average book. Likewise, the colors don’t transfer well into my Kindle which only shows things in black and white. Additionally, my first two years in Longmont were mostly spent on my bed healing from health issues. I called Longmont Library and I have since been introduced to Loraine Mandelko. A senior herself, a third generation Coloradoan and a second generation native to Longmont, Loraine has been a library volunteer for over 16 years. She says, “I love to connect to older seniors like myself and people who like to read. They give me way more that I give them.” I now have the opportunity to enjoy artists’ work in my home. Loraine brings to me a world of inspiration, color, and fine art.

Before I came to Colorado, I drove my own car – my Malibu- with hand-controls and a storage place for my wheelchair on top of the car. However, the time came when I gave up the cost of driving so that I could afford better health care. This was a huge decision for me. Paralyzed for two decades, I was proud of the fact that I could still drive. Now, I am so fortunate to live in Boulder County and have Via Mobility Services be a part of my life. Via has been the link for me to my “independence”. For an affordable cost, I travel to my appointments, doctor visits, classes and volunteer work. At first I thought I would be embarrassed to use their services. Little ol’ independent me getting on a bus with a lift and drivers to secure my wheelchair to their vehicle! I thought it would be an invasion of who I was. Yet I can no longer get in and out of cars. I have to stay in my wheelchair to travel – but, I have places to go.

From my first day with Via, I have had no regrets. Some of the drivers are themselves seniors and this is their second career. They could not have been kinder and gentler with me. They are personable; they treat me like an equal – no baby talk and all that “here-honey-let-me-help-you” language that I feared. We joke together, we share life stories and I think of many of the drivers as “friends”, and I mean that with the highest regard. Frank Bruno, the chief executive says “Everyone may have different reasons [for working here], but the common thread is that we care deeply about the people we are serving. We see this each day as drivers mention their riders and seek the best for each of them”. VIA is not just the drivers; I have also come to know and care for those behind the scenes too. Frank says of their work, “Those of us who are not interacting with the riders do understand that all that we do helps to support this work.” Frank talks about the Via consumers, “Our riders are so important to us, and each day we receive the gift of serving them and hopefully enhancing their lives in some way by connecting them with their community."


Debbie riding the Via van


Connecting me to Longmont was the “key” for me to find my footing and create a home for myself. Independence was important to me. Author, George Bernard Shaw once said, “Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.” I stand corrected, Mr. Shaw. My “independence” is because of my “dependency” on a lot of kind and wonderful people who make my life better. Who are the people in your life that you can rely upon? Who helps create your independence?

Thank you for visiting Drop In with Debbie. Don’t forget to mark in your calendar to return around the 15th of each month to hear and become involved in these discussions.

Until next month, may peace be at your side,

Debbie Noel

We encourage you to interact with Debbie. Please email your responses to her email at or register at the blog site (very bottom of the page) to have your comments viewed online or send your letters to:

Debbie Noel C/o Longmont Senior Center
910 Longs Peak Avenue
Longmont, Colorado 80501

*Oxford Dictionaries © 2018 Oxford University Press

** Cultivate started as just the federally-funded program RSVP program that connects volunteers with non-profits. Now, the agency still provides that program and has grown to offer many direct services such as Carry Out Caravan – a program where volunteers grocery shop for people who are elderly and have difficulty shopping for themselves. The volunteer base has grown substantially over the years; currently their youngest volunteer is 4 years old, a tyke who helps her mommy shop for those who need this service. To discover all the programs, volunteer or give a donation, contact: or email Phone: 303-443-1933; mailing address: 6325 Gunpark Drive, #F, Boulder, Colorado 80301

**Longmont Public Library, Home delivery service for people with disabilities to enjoy books in their home, Phone: Debbie Puzo, 303-651-8795

** VIA offers resources and transportation services to older adults, people with disabilities and others living with mobility limitations. For more information or to give a donation, contact: or email Phone: 303-447-2848; mailing address: Via Mobility Services, 2855 N. 63rd Street, Boulder CO 80301

  1. Updated: 12/26/2019
  2. Updated: 07/22/2019
  3. Updated: 02/26/2019
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