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Meals on Wheels launching first of its kind program to feed folks in recovery

Program honors Nathan Otolski, who died in March 2022
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Posted at 5:33 PM, Apr 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-16 13:50:44-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Nathan Otolski loved his job at Meals on Wheels.

"The best part of working here at Meals On Wheels," he said in a 2021 promotional video, "is walking through the doors every day and knowing that I'm doing something positive."

Otolski devoted much of his life to doing something positive. He was quick to help friends, family, anyone in need.

Karen Otolski holds a photo of her son Nathan, who died March 4, 2022.

Years ago, Otolski shared an idea with his close friend and coworker, David Carpenter. Meals on Wheels should help the people battling addiction and substance abuse disorder.

"We serve people living with HIV and AIDS; we serve people that are diagnosed with cancer, people who are low income," said Carpenter, Meals on Wheels director of programs. "And so Nate and I were talking and we're like, 'Wouldn't it be cool to serve people that are in early recovery with these medically tailored meals?'"

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David Carpenter

Otolski and Carpenter knew well how difficult it can be to get sober. They met before they worked together, while they both were in recovery programs while working through the disease of substance abuse.

Nathan, 26, died of an overdose two years ago, but that good idea lives on through a new program named in his honor.

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Karen Otolski holds a photo of her son Nathan, who died March 4, 2022.

Over the next two years, the "NO Limits to Recovery" program will provide three months of meals to 100 people living in recovery houses throughout Marion County.

The capitalized "NO" stands for Nathan Otolski's initials.

Karen and Greg Otolski

Otolski's parents said these meals will be a huge help to people as they try to rebuild their lives.

"Just knowing when you get up you don't have to worry about where your next meals coming from today," said Greg Otolski, Nathan's dad. "That's a huge load off somebody's mind."

Nathan's mom agreed.

"It's hard for a lot of young people or anybody in recovery," Karen Otolski said. "They may not have had a job for a long time. They're struggling to just make ends meet."

This is an important program in a city that has been hard hit by drug abuse. Every day in Indianapolis, the Marion County coroner's office reports that overdoses claim the lives of 2.3 people.

Drug overdoses nearly doubled in Indiana between 2010 and 2017; and opioids have killed about 4,000 Hoosiers in the last decade, according to Indiana University.

NO Limits to Recovery hopes to change that.

Meals on Wheels food pantry at their office in downtown Indianapolis.

Thanks to a $137,000 grant from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Meals on Wheels will provide 90-days worth of healthy meals to folks who recently finished a four-week in-patient treatment program and are in the early phase of their recovery.

Otolski spent five years with Meals on Wheels, with his last role as the Community Outreach Manager. He volunteered with the Indy Hunger Network, IUPUI Students in Recovery and was a youth volunteer for Fairbanks Addiction Treatment Center.

Having undergone treatment for substance abuse disorder, he understood the challenges individuals faced and was committed to making the road to recovery less difficult for others.

Carpenter said it's taken about two years to find the funding and launch the new program.

For now, it's only for folks in Marion County but Carpenter said he hopes that changes.

"My overall dream is to take this program and go statewide with it," he said. "It really is one of a kind. We're the first organization to serve medically tailored meals to this specific population."

Otolski's parents said he would be thrilled to see his idea become a reality, but Nathan would not enjoy the attention.

Nathan Otolski is pictured in the center in this family photograph.

"He just wasn't a braggy person at all," Karen Otolski said.

"He would be embarrassed right now if he knew that there was a program named after him," Greg Otolski said. "It was never about him. It was about the work that he was doing."

Carpenter said this program is the best way to remember his friend.

"I'm just very grateful for the opportunity to take this dream that Nathan and I had, a little conversation that started literally at a water cooler upstairs," Carpenter said, "and turn it into a huge program that has the potential to help so many individuals in recovery."

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Nathan Otolski, left, is pictured in a family photo.

Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at or on X/Twitter: @vicryc.