Two Men with Something in Common

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By Philip Gonzalez

Being around for 50 years, we’ve served a lot of clients — tens of thousands of them — but one man stands alone as being on the program longer than any other. Charles has been a Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County client for 31 years! He joined us in 1991 and has been with us ever since.

Charles was born in Cleburne, TX in 1944. His parents had him later in life and were horrified when Charles contracted polio as an infant. In those days, a polio diagnosis left families and entire communities paralyzed with fear. Little was understood about the virus and without a vaccine, public hysteria was similar to the early days of the COVID pandemic. Charles’ parents knew that he was going to have to live with this crippling disease his entire life and had to make the difficult decision whether to send him to an asylum, which was common in those days, or keep him at home and try to treat the disease on their own. Thankfully, his parents decided to keep him at home. When Charles was about 14-years old, he and his family moved to Haltom City. Although most of his family is gone now, he still lives in that same house.

Volunteer Kurt Kulpa and client Charles.

Charles is able to get around with the help of a motorized wheelchair. He has a tremendous outlook on life, which he attributes to his strong faith. He is a member of two large churches in Northeast Tarrant County and although he is unable to actually attend church services, he gladly welcomes church members into his home as they “bring church to him,” as he likes to say.

Along with his friends and family, Charles really looks forward to seeing the volunteers from Meals On Wheels. He said that the volunteers who come to see him were made just for him. “They’re cheerful and happy and honor me when they come into my home,” he added. Charles also looks forward to the nutritious meals he receives.

Kurt Kulpa has been volunteering at Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County for over 35 years! Kurt started delivering to Charles in the mid-’90s and over the years Charles has come and gone off his route as the Volunteer department tweaked things to even up delivery routes. “What’s funny is that Charles remembers my wife, Patty, and my two youngest daughters, Mary and Alyssa,” Kurt said. “A couple of years ago Charles was put back on my route. I couldn’t believe he remembered not only me, but Patty and my daughters! Despite his physical limitations, he has a great sense of humor and is always so upbeat. He’s a remarkable man!”

Charles is a constant reminder of why Kurt has delivered meals for so many years. “It’s really all about people like Charles,” Kurt said. “I am just one of many who have delivered to him. Hopefully we’ve made a positive impact on his life.” Well, Kurt, according to Charles, that wish is his reality and he is grateful for your service.

All of Kurt’s clients are appreciative of the work Meals On Wheels of Tarrant County does in the community, but according to Kurt, Charles is probably the most vocal. “He always says thank you and tells me that he would never be able to have the quality of life he enjoys or be able to stay in his home without the services of Meals On Wheels,” Kurt said. “I’m so thankful that I get to be a part of this great organization and part of Charles’ life. I just want to encourage others to get involved, too.” Charles and Kurt are just one of the thousands of human connections we make possible and we are thankful they are both longtime members of our extended family.

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