70 Ranch helps feed Kersey seniors, donates to meal program

The 70 Ranch has been a part of the Kersey community for over 100 years, and we wanted to make sure those who are a part of that history are taken care of."

--  Ranch owner Bob Lembke

By Lynn Bartels

Kersey seniors who got meals delivered to them Thursday received something besides their egg salad sandwich and tomato bisque: a book about the historic 70 Ranch just down the road.

They expressed gratitude for both.

“This is wonderful,” Lindia Brown said. “Thank you so much.”

The seniors used to eat their lunch at the Kersey Community Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays but it has been closed since the state’s coronavirus crisis. The town’s recreation director, James Neill, and recreation specialist, Kaylee Guerin, still go to the center those days to pack up the meals and personally deliver them to the seniors’ homes. 

Adella Andrijeski and her husband John began attending the seniors group in 2000 when they retired to Kersey. They had been dairy farmers in Pierce north of Greeley for 42 years. He died three years after they retired.

“I would have been lost without the Kersey seniors,” the 88-year-old said.

She feels a little bit lost again with the center closed. It wasn’t just the food, but the activities. Once a month someone from the Kersey Library showed seniors how to use cell phones and computers  Firefighters stopped by to do blood pressure checks. Those who wanted to pay for them could get pedicures. 

“Thank heavens we all know each other because we still call and talk to each other,” Andrijeski said. 

Welcome to a pandemic in a small town.

Kersey is one of the 22 sites in Weld County that provides lunches through its  Senior Nutrition Program. In Kersey, between 10 to 20 seniors sign up for the meals the day before they are to be served; on Thursday there were 18 meals ordered. A monthly calendar provides information on the menu, which in May  has included country fried steak, beef stew and turkey pot pie. 

Weld County works with the Area Agency on Aging, which suggests seniors donate $4 per meal, but the center is not obligated to charge each person. 

“We do have several individuals in and around the community who are in desperate need of these weekly meals,” Neill said.  “And running a program as such does incur expenses which aren’t even remotely covered by the $4 donation.”

That’s why Kersey town officials were so grateful for a $5,000 donation from 70 Ranch owner Bob Lembke, who on Thursday presented a check to the seniors program. 

 The 14,500-acre 70 Ranch is home to a permanent research facility that conducts experiments on subsurface irrigation that can be used by farmers in the South Platte River Basin to conserve irrigation water and improve their ability to withstand droughts, while improving productivity, crop quality and overall profitability.

It also is near the 70 Ranch Reservoir, which took three years to  build and reached its 5,500 acre-foot capacity in May.  Lembke also is president of the Weld Adams Water Development Authority, or WAWDA, which built the reservoir.

“The 70 Ranch has been a part of the Kersey community for over 100 years, and we wanted to make sure those who are a part of that history are taken care of,” Lembke said. 

The food for Kersey and the other sites is prepared by the University of Northern Colorado, which has a contract with the Area Agency on Agency. A delivery service drops the food off at the community center in sealed containers. 

The lunch Thursday also included a broccoli-cauliflower salad, a melon- strawberry salad, a crunchy fruit snack, nuts and milk.  

Donna Reedy, 82,  can’t eat broccoli or cauliflower. If they were still dining at the center, she said, she would give it to a friend.

Reedy has been going to the senior center for five years. Her husband, Frank, who died six months ago, wasn’t interested, joking he didn’t want to hang out with old ladies.

She didn’t have time Thursday to look at the book about the 70 Ranch  because, “I have nine graduation cards to write.”

But Andrijeski began reading it that afternoon. “It’s quite a history,” she said. 

That it is. From the book, by Dana EchoHawk: 

According to local historians and residents, the ranch got its name because it is 70 miles from Denver, 70 miles from Cheyenne and 70 miles from Sterling, the three primary cattle shipping hubs in northern Colorado during the nineteenth century.

But then again, it may have been envisaged for the year 1870 when Major James Edward Williams and James W. Macrum first grazed cattle in the grassy sand hills north of the river and branded them with the number '70.'

Lembke bought the ranch in 2003. 

Gilbert Marin Sr. ,who served as Kersey mayor for six years.
Gilbert Marin Sr. ,who served as Kersey mayor for six years. 

Also present Thursday for the check presentation were Gilbert Marin Sr. and his son, Gilbert Jr. 

The elder Marin was mayor of Kersey for six years and began working on the ranch when it was a hog farm in 1999. He now is the ranch’s agricultural and land manager. The younger Marin spent much of his childhood on the 70 Ranch, and serves as its operations manager. 

Marin Sr., who is 58, got a big laugh when he asked about age requirements for the meals. 

“This is really a great program,” he said. “I’ve seen it evolve over the years.”

James Neill, recreation director for Kersey, hand delivers meals to seniors during the coronavirus crisis.
James Neill, Kersey’s recreation director, delivers meals and a book about the history of nearby 70 Ranch to seniors Adella Andrijeski, left and Lois Seeley, right, on Thursday.  The meals are being pesonally delivered because the Kersey Community Center is closed during the coronavirus crisis.
Bob Lembke, the owner of 70 Ranch, hands a check for $5,000 to Kayla Guerin who works for Kersey, for the town's seniors program.
Kaylee Guerin, recreation assistant for the town of Kersey, accepts a check for $5,000 from Bob Lembke, owner of the nearby 70 Ranch, to help cover costs for meals for seniors during the coronavirus crisis. 
Former Kersey Mayor Gilbert Marin Sr., left, has seen themeals program for seniors change over the years.
Gilbert Marin Sr., the former mayor of Kersey and now a manager at the historic 70 Ranch, Bob Lembke, owner of the ranch and town of Kersey recreation employees James Neill and Kaylee Guerin stand near the table holding 18 meals for Kersey seniors and a copy of a book about the 70 Ranch they will receive when their food is delivered. 70 Ranch donated $5,000 to the seniors meal program.
Senior Lyndia Brown receives a meal from Kersey's recreation director James Neill.
Senior Lyndia Brown receives a meal from Kersey's recreation director James Neill.
70 Ranch owner Bob Lembke, right, watches as town of Kersey workers package meals for seniors.
70 Ranch owner Bob Lembke, right, watches as town of Kersey employees James Neill and Kaylee Guerin assemble meals to be delivered to seniors.