Mary Nittmann, Founding Director
In 1969, Mary answered a want-ad stating, “Director of a new program. Must be willing to work with volunteers.” Little did Mary realize that by answering the ad, her life would never be the same. With just a few hundred dollars and no blueprint she began feeding the elderly. After just six months the few hundred dollars ran out, leaving Mary and the fledgling program wondering where to turn. Tapping her natural resourcefulness, Mary was able to secure a two-year federal grant and began to build a loyal local donor program. Office space was created in a church and a willing chef was found at the Elks Club. At that time, there were 25 dedicated volunteers serving 15 elderly, homebound clients.
Three years later, the meal preparation was moved to the newly enlarged kitchen at PoudreValleyHospital and the client rolls grew to seventy. The MOW office moved to her kitchen table, closer to her coffee pot. Mary worked alone for the first 30 years with the help of Margaret Robinson who volunteered as the bookkeeper. Early route sheets were handwritten by Mary on her kitchen table, later she developed a label system, and eventually in the early 80’s Karen Seeton, a wonderful friend to Mary and MOW, developed computerized route sheets. Asked what her legacy is to Meals on Wheels Fort Collins, Mary, as many know her to be an eloquent speaker, did not hesitate for an instant when responding, “Thousands of people in Fort Collins have benefited from the program as a consequence of the delivery of a meal which stabilized or enhanced their health and benefited them socially from the social contact by an interested volunteer who at the same time was performing a critical, emergency check on their welfare.
Where do we begin to thank Mary Nittman for 43 years of unfailing service to Meals On Wheels Fort Collins? Away on a trip to Juneau, Alaska, the last leg by seaplane, to a remote island near Juneau Alaska to check on a grandson who literally beats around the bushes for black bears, Mary couldn’t be reached for an interview until a few days ago. Mary and her husband of 56 years, Rolf, have traveled to all but the North Pole, the South Pole, and India since she proclaimed that she was going to see the world. “I choose my destinations by intellectual interest. My favorite three destinations are, Ireland for it is the most beautiful, Australia for it is the most interesting and Greece for it is the most touching. To be able to stand on the marble of the Palace of King Phillip of Macedonia where Aristotle taught Alexander the Great, to see the starting blocks of the first Olympics from 300 B.C….amazing.” She trails off in a marvel of the things she has experienced. Mary is passionate about philosophy and social work, her two areas of study from her college years at Washington University in her home town of St. Louis Missouri and the University of Colorado where she was honored with membership into Phi Beta Kappa. But these traveling adventures weren’t always the norm for the Nittmans: Mary’s first 9 years with MOW were vacation-less. In fact, she often went without a paycheck at the beginning of her career.
Thousands of volunteers have benefited from performing a meaningful task for others. Those volunteers, by bringing along their children, are introducing the next generation to the satisfaction of giving. My career has been a joy. I cannot imagine a better calling.” This interviewer’s last question, “Are you proud of your work with Meals On Wheels?” Mary Nittman said, “Very.”