Nuclear Care Partners — a national advocacy group that helps connect atomic workers and uranium miners to available benefits and in-home care - has resumed hosting in-person luncheons for Rocky …
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Nuclear Care Partners — a national advocacy group that helps connect atomic workers and uranium miners to available benefits and in-home care - has resumed hosting in-person luncheons for Rocky Flats Plant retirees. The first of two scheduled luncheons was held on March 31 at the American Legion Post 161 on West 60th in Arvada.
The luncheons offer resources — including prescription help, impairment ratings and reviewing claims denied by the Department of Labor - for retired Rocky Flats workers who have dealt with health issues due to radiation exposure at the worksite.
Additionally, the meetings provide a social meeting place for a tight-knit group of former colleagues, many of whom worked in secrecy for years at Rocky Flats and experienced serious health issues over the years. The March 31 meeting and the next scheduled luncheon - set for April 20, also at the American Legion Post 161 - limited attendance due to COVID-19 precautions.
Lori Shanks, a benefits specialist with Nuclear Care Partners, said that the luncheons create a social outlet for people who have deep, longstanding relationships with each other.
“They're kind of unsung heroes,” said Shanks. “These people worked at Rocky Flats from as early as 1952 in some cases. So, there's a broad range of comradery with this group and they recognize each other because most of them started in one part of plant and moved around three or four or gives times throughout their time there.
“A lot of people worked out there 30 to 40 years,” Shanks continued, “It was a good job back then.”
Shanks said that Nuclear Cares Partners attempted to hold virtual meetings when COVID-19 health safety protocols suspended in-person luncheons but did not have much success because most of the Rocky Flats retirees are seniors who have trouble navigating computers.
For the same reason, many of the retirees have had trouble accessing their benefits over the past year. Shanks said that she has been calling patients and members of Nuclear Care Partner's mailing list individually and checking in on them, as well as helping them to register for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, Shanks said that 2020 was still a productive year for Nuclear Care Partners, as they were still able to conduct wellness visits.
“Some people come to the same events over and over again,” said Shanks, “I know all of these people really well. He's a new guy. I connecvted with him over COVID. So, I got to connect with him over COVID because he typically doesn't come to the events. I helped him get set up with the screening program over the phone and now he feels like he knows me. So, it's nice to put a face to the name.
“Everybody came here to see each other,” Shanks continued. “They're like `we've got to get back to some normalcy, but still be safe.”
Nuclear Care Partner's resources are available to anyone who worked at the Rocky Flats Plant. The plant employed 52,000 employees with badges and about 8,000 additional personnel from its inception in 1952 to its closure in 1992.
Laura Shultz, a retired Rocky Flats worker who has battled cancer, said that the closeness felt in this community of retirees has had a devastating bent lately, with many of the retired workers passing away in recent years.
“We are a family,” said Schultz, “we've been a family for several generations, and we lose friends every week. About two months ago we lost a married couple. And these are not strangers on the street, these are our best friends, and we are losing people all the time. And nobody knows about it.”
The next Nuclear Care Partners luncheon will be April 20, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the American Legion Post 161 located at 6230 West 60th Ave, Arvada.
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