Pleading for future of site
The kitchen is closed.
Participants of the Storm Lake Dinner Date Program ate their last on-site-prepared meal at the Senior Center Friday. Due to budget cuts by the Northwest Aging Agency, the three cook positions have been eliminated from the facility. Meals will now be contracted out to Lakeshore Cafe and brought to the Senior Center.
It was a somber day as the seniors said their goodbyes to Annette Bruns, head cook and site manager for the past 19 years and to Stella Oleson and to Louise Gutz who have cooked for them for several years. Bruns was offered the chance to stay as site coordinator, but declined it. Another site manager has been hired.
"I've enjoyed preparing all the special meals for the seniors," Bruns said. "I love cooking for big crowds." The three women prepared meals for 40-45 each day of the week, special meals brought in more seniors. Bruns had a knack for making the participants feel special by preparing them meals filled with all the traditional menu items on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The most she cooked for during all those years with the program, was 110 - at a special Mother's Day dinner.
"These are all lovely people," she said of the participants. "They're all very sweet and are like parents to me."
Many of the participants in the program have been coming back day after day and year after year. "Once they come, they keep coming back," Bruns said of their satisfaction for the program. Dinner Date provides not only a hot nutritious meal to the seniors but a time for socializing as well.
Bruns never found that the participants to be picky eaters. "They'll eat anything and a lot of it!" And she likes that.
She has helped the program seem more like a "home setting" by serving the meals family style.
For several weeks, the seniors have been faced with several dilemmas. They wondered if their center would be closed and if their meals would cease to exist. They are feeling a little better knowing that a contract has been signed by Lakeshore to prepare the meals and they have hopes that they will find money to pay for the utility bills. With the pullout by Northwest Aging Agency using the kitchen space, rent money will be lost, making it tougher to pay the bills.
"I hate to see this happen. This is what keeps the people in their own homes, not a nursing home. I hope they make a go of it and can pay all their bills. They're tough here and I think they'll be all right."
Velda Robinson commented, "The cooks have all been great and we're going to miss them all."
Participant, and volunteer for many years with the program, Marie Grote, spoke to the group prior to their last cooked meal. "I am concerned about our center. We need to all work hard to keep the center going. If we lose it, it'll never come back. Where else can you go for a $2.75 meal? You could fix your own at home but what fun is that? And the socialization is a big part of it."
She pleaded with those in attendance to give the new program a try. "We all need to pitch in. I hope to see all of you here."
Bruns gave a short and tearful speech.
"It's been fun. I'll miss you all. I don't live that far away. God Bless you all."
And as for the future plans of the three cooks - after 19 years as a cook for the Dinner Date and seven years as a cook at Methodist Manor, Bruns will seek something other than feeding people; Oleson will be heading south for a warmer climate and Gutz will continue to prepare income tax returns and may visit the Senior Center and sit down for a meal with the others every so often.