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Make Your Mark: Optage Senior Dining Choices

Optage Senior Dining Choices team membersThe mission of Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), “to honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults,” is fulfilled when the actions of our employees demonstrate our stated values. In doing so, they “make their mark” upon those we serve. In our continuing series, “Make your Mark,” we introduce you to PHS employees who are living out these values.

Previous posts in the Make Your Mark series have recognized remarkable individuals. This week we highlight an entire PHS team: Optage Senior Dining Choices. They demonstrate outstanding Operational Integrity – a PHS core value – as a highly integrated, dynamic team serving thousands of meals daily. When the COVID-19 crisis came, the team turned on a dime in response.

Optage is the home and community services division of Presbyterian Homes & Services. In 2019 Senior Dining Choices served 1.7 million home-delivered meals to seniors throughout the 7-county Twin Cities area. This team exists to support the choice of thousands of older adults to remain in their homes and maintain good daily nutrition necessary for their health and well-being.

Check out the recent video on Youtube in which team members pause from their service to hold signs that read: “I am at work so you can stay home.” To these heroes who continue to deliver, whatever it takes, we say, “Thank you!”

Before COVID-19, the team was serving an average of 130,000 meals monthly according to Jillian Gessell, Optage Senior Dining Choices Director. Now most congregate dining sites – which order about 23,000 meals monthly – have been closed temporarily. “In a week’s time,” Jillian says, “Optage has been able to transition all our congregate dining clients to our home delivered meal program.” Going above and beyond, she adds, “we provided 4,000 meals to other Optage Senior Dining Choices team memberorganizations who were dependent on external caterers and an additional 12,000 meals to our PHS communities.”

Mark Marthaler, Nutrition & Culinary Director at Boutwells Landing, recalls, “When we closed our dining room for the 350 independent living residents at Boutwells, we placed a large order. Optage Senior Dining Choices delivered that next morning, so residents could pick up meals at our makeshift drive-through service. The support and follow up was top notch and very much appreciated in a time of uncertainty.”

Marie Gaspardo, Optage Customer Service Director, adds, “Our staff have gone above and beyond, from those in the kitchens, in the coolers, in production, those answering phone calls and those out on the front lines delivering meals to every client. We have added a second shift at times. We have received calls from members of the Twin Cities community who have not had a meal for days; we have heard their cries for help and have responded by delivering meals promptly. I am continually amazed at the team’s ability to pull together and live out the PHS Mission.”

Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to make a mark at

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