The crew working in the Valley Community Center kitchen prepared close to 200 mouthwatering Thanksgiving meals Tuesday morning for seniors who are homebound during the coronavirus pandemic.
Before COVID-19 took over everyday life, the food would’ve been served to folks sitting together and visiting at the long tables at the Senior Roundtable site and delivered to several shut-ins. Now the people who enjoy the wholesome, low-priced meals have to rely on a delivery or pick up the food at the Clarkston center.
The traditional fare is a bright spot for many residents stuck at home. Those working at the Senior Roundtable said they are grateful for the opportunity to provide familiar favorites, which often bring smiles to people’s faces. At the same time, the staff and volunteers are looking forward to the day the center will once again be buzzing with conversation, laughter and fellowship.
Heather Estes, executive director of the Valley Community Center, said everyone has been affected by the pandemic, especially the seniors who can no longer socialize at the popular gathering spot.
“That has been sad for all of us,” Estes said. “Our seniors haven’t been able to visit the center to dance, play cards or visit with one another at the meal site, which has caused depression. When you hit that depression, it can be a downward spiral, especially in this population. I really feel for our seniors, and I see what’s happening to them. Everybody is hoping we can gather again someday soon.”
The building in downtown Clarkston currently houses four rentals, including the Pink Poodle beauty shop, Silver Comb barber shop, the meal site and Asotin County Community Services. The pandemic has resulted in a large drop in revenue this year, so grants have become even more important to help the center stay afloat, she said.
Marvin Entel, the Valley Community Center board president, has been a godsend to the hub, especially during the COVID-19 upheaval, Estes said.
“Bless Marv’s heart. He is a gem. He is always doing repairs here, and he donated all of the pork for one of our November meals. He is just the best.”
In addition, the Valley Community Center’s board of directors sponsor one Rountable meal each month, which runs between $300 and $600, depending on the menu.
Estes has been at the helm of the center for about two years. Entel recruited her for the role on her last day of work as a branch manager for ResCare HomeCare in Clarkston.
“I love working with the senior population and have since I was in my 20s,” she said. “Now I am one. It’s funny how your life circles around. It’s a great job.”
Chrystal Wiese, the Senior Roundtable site manager, said turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and other goodies were delivered to homes throughout the community Tuesday. The holiday meal is just one of many on the November and December calendar, and complete menus are available online at www.valleycntr.org/menu.html.
People over the age of 60 are only required to give a donation for the meals, and folks under 60 are asked to pay $7. The food is typically prepared three days a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, but the site will be closed over the Thanksgiving holiday. When the Senior Roundtable is open, meals are available for pick-up between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on the south side of the center, located at 549 Fifth St.
“This meal site has been here as long as I can remember,” Wiese said during a brief break. “It’s for everyone. A lot of my volunteer drivers are seniors themselves, and they quit because of the COVID risk. We always need drivers on those three days.”
The Senior Roundtable, which primarily focuses on Asotin County residents, is funded through the state, grants and donations. Anyone who is interested in volunteering, making a donation or having a meal delivered can contact Wiese at (509) 758-3816. Drivers are reimbursed 53 cents per mile and receive a complimentary meal. The work usually starts around 9:30 a.m. and wraps up around noon, she said.
Sandaine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.