S.O.S. rescues Truckee’s senior lunch program
Uncertainty was laid to rest Friday when an Orangevale, Calif., senior services organization was approved by Area 4 Agency on Aging (A4AA) to handle the Truckee lunch program.
When the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District discontinued their contract for the program for next year, many seniors feared the program would end.
For most of the 20 or so seniors who eat lunch every day at the community kitchen in the Truckee Donner Congregate Housing complex, it is also about seeing friends and sharing news.
They had more to lose than an important meal.
Serve Our Seniors, a non-profit organizations that specializes in programs and services for senior citizens will take on the new contract as of July 1.
“We hope we will not skip a beat and be able to have meals for the seniors the earliest as possible in July. The school district will stop on the last day in June. I’m going to try to open the first day in July,” said Save Our Seniors CEO Joan Barry. “We are very excited. I was very pleased to have such tremendous support from the community.”
According to Gloria Petrul, A4AA nutrition program manager, many Truckee groups and individuals expressed interest in helping with the program and taking on the contract, but Server Our Seniors was the only one to apply for the contract.
“We were hoping we could find someone else locally to do it. But these kind of contracts get extremely involved,” said Petrul. “Save Our Seniors has been a provider for a long time. We think they should be able to provide services and work with the seniors.”
Operating from its base in Orangevale, Save Our Seniors saves money by centralizing food purchasing. The organization will send the food to Truckee with a vendor, and prepare meals at the community kitchen from scratch, which will be served hot daily at the center and sent out to Meals on Wheels recipients. This is its 25th year in service.
Save Our Seniors will also be sending frozen meals to the more isolated elderly, said Barry. Some prefer to get frozen meals because they can eat them when they want. Barry also said staff will make sure that homebound clients get extra meals to keep in their freezers for times when delivery may not be possible due to weather.
Save Our Seniors will hire three people from the area to run the program in Truckee – a cook, driver and site manager, said Barry. She said local groups and organizations have offered to help in a variety of ways and that she hopes they will also serve as an advisory group.
“I’m very excited about the new provider. Hopefully we’ll have a seamless transition,” said Tom Ballou, regional supervisor for Guardian Management (which manages the senior housing complex and Truckee Pines Apartments).
Ballou said there may be a couple of equipment-related challenges such as finding a dishwashing machine. There will also be some minor menu changes, said Barry.
Beverly Rueckheim, manager of Truckee-Donner Congregate Apartments, said some seniors have heard the news already, and many will be relieved.
“The word is just now getting out. We haven’t made a grand announcement yet. But the rumor is excitedly spreading that we’re not going to be without – which we were worried about,” said Rueckheim.
“The ones (seniors) who are most concerned are ones we don’t have contact with daily and get meals delivered to their homes,” she said. “It would have been a shock to them to have an interim period of no lunch. This is just going to be a life saver for us.”
Once the lunch program is in place, Save Our Seniors may work on expanding services.
“Wherever we go, we build services. It won’t happen right away though,” said Barry. “We know what works in these programs. One of the things we are doing is using social services staff. Our philosophy is to improve and enhance quality of life for elders so they can stay in their homes.”
She said one thing they are very sensitive with is lifestyle issues.
“We don’t try to interfere with lifestyles,” she said. “One of my first steps is to really get to know the (Truckee) community.”
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