Through the last couple years with the Covid pandemic, the wellbeing of our elders has become an increasing concern in our communities. Many older adults retreated to the safety of their homes in hopes of minimizing their exposure to the Covid virus. While the best move for their health and wellbeing, the result has been several years of isolation and reduced access to services and supports received at meal sites and community centers.
The staff at the Orting Senior Center knew there were creative ways to continue supporting their clients even when they couldn’t gather in person. The staff knew that while it would be challenging, they could change their feeding model from congregate meals to individual meal delivery. And they knew they could also home deliver groceries that seniors used to pick up from the food pantry. What they didn’t know, was that their client list of 300 meals per month would grow to more than 1,000 meals per month as isolation led to increased food insecurity for many.
Operating from a small, 2-bay home economics classroom space built in the 1970’s, the Orting Senior Center staff and volunteers met the increased need and demands while dreaming of a new, more efficient space. Preparing that many individual meals for delivery in close quarters using small appliances was taxing, yet they continued to serve every identified need. Receiving and processing food donations in a cramped location was not ideal, but they kept going.
The Senior Center was gifted a new building at just the right moment in time. After a few modifications, the Orting Christian Church will be its new home. While the building has great space already, the Senior Center needs to add a commercial kitchen, ADA compliant restrooms, and a dedicated food pantry. Thanks to several grants, that daydream is close to reality.
Once renovations and additions are complete, the new space will have plenty of room for meal prep, space for a food pantry focused on the unique needs of an aging population that easily facilitates donors and shoppers, and a community center to host programming, classes, and meals. This updated and expanded kitchen space will allow the Senior Center staff to operate more than four days each week and provide the space to prepare enough meals and food boxes to meet current needs.
No senior should go hungry, and no senior should experience isolation for lack of safe community spaces. The Ben B. Cheney Foundation is proud to partner with the Orting Senior Center to help make sure these services are available to anyone who wishes to access them.
Learn more about the Orting Senior Center at facebook.com/OrtingValleySeniorCenter/