Meals of Love
Vic and Candy Shepard. Thinking about it, I’ve known them most of my life. If you’ve lived in the Gunnison Valley any time in the last 35 years, you probably know of them, too.
Vic and Candy ran the restaurant Le Bosquet and the prepared food store Why Cook? for over 3 decades, serving delicious meals to thousands of residents and visitors every year. They are extremely talented restauranteurs, but they are also genuinely warm and caring hosts.
In May of 2021, they embarked on a whole new type of food service. Vic and Candy had been volunteering for Living Journeys, Gunnison County’s cancer support nonprofit, for a while. While Vic was driving a client to treatment last spring, the client mentioned the Living Journeys Nutrition Program, which was looking for new cooks to take over. “They had a need,” Vic said, when I asked how they got involved. “The leaders who had been doing the program had to step down.”
The need was great. Every week since May of 2021, Vic and Candy have prepared an entrée, soup, and fresh, healthy salad for 40-48 community members living with cancer and their families. Carolyn Huresky delivers the meals to coolers all over the Gunnison Valley, leaving gifts of love for families who need it most. Candy pointed out that their experience with Why Cook? has been especially helpful. They always aim to make something that “pleases children as well as adults, travels well, and reheats well.” Vic said they’re “enjoying every week, researching and finding new recipes.” He has also been known to revive some classic Why Cook? soups, like Hungarian Mushroom. All of the meals are organic and customized to special diets for those undergoing cancer treatment. Talking to Vic and Candy about the program, it’s clear that the warm hospitality of Le Bosquet extends to their new endeavor.
According to Julie Reid, the director of Living Journeys, the program has evolved a lot from its COVID beginnings. In April 2020, the Living Journeys board and staff recognized how important it would be to help keep community members with cancer, as well as their families, safe at home. Donors stepped up to get the program launched in collaboration with the Community Farmers Market hosted by the Secret Stash, providing fresh produce boxes to Living Journeys clients. In addition to the produce boxes, local restaurants cooked meals, with up to 40 families receiving two meals per week.
By June of 2020, restaurants started opening back up and a new plan was hatched. Two community volunteers, Luisa Naughton and Jodi Nute, stepped in to cook meals for the program until Vic and Candy took the reins earlier this year. Julie comments that meal deliveries receive the most thanks, “For community members and their caregivers, knowing that they are being thought of weekly and the community is caring for them is really special.” Laura Villanueva, a local caregiver and full-time working mother of two wrote, “My sigh of relief is audible all the way from the street on Thursday afternoons as I pull a healthy, homemade meal out of the cooler on my front porch. This meal is there every week. It’s nourishing. I can depend on it. It makes my night doable just at the end of the week when I’m exhausted. These meals are a weekly reminder that there are people in this community always supporting our family. I’m reminded that five years into this cancer thing, we’re still supported by Living Journeys.”
Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley supporters were happy to help with the program as well. In August of 2020, we awarded a grant of $75,000 from CFGV’s COVID-19 Recovery Fund to a group of seven organizations that had banded together to form a coalition known as the Emergency Food Network, including Living Journeys. When COVID was surging, they made sure Gunnison Valley residents didn’t have to worry about their next meal, especially the most vulnerable members of the community.
If you’re interested in learning more about the work of Living Journeys, please visit livingjourneys.org. If you want to learn more about CFGV support of local nonprofit organizations, please visit cfgv.org.
Since April 2020, 4,200 fresh, healthy meals and 750 boxes of produce have been delivered to people living with cancer and their families.
Emergency Food Network
Mountain Roots Food Project
Gunnison Country Food Pantry
City of Gunnison Senior Center
Gunnison County Health & Human Services
Gunnison Farmer’s Market
Crested Butte Farmer’s Market
Living Journeys Cancer Support