By Eric Rosane / [email protected]
The Lewis County Seniors (LCS) nonprofit has secured $ 300,000 as part of the state’s 2021 Supplementary Capital Budget that will be used to update and expand its kitchen at Twin Cities Senior Center, with the ultimate objective of improving their nutritional offerings.
The funding, secured by the Legislature under the 2021-2023 Building Communities Fund Grant, is expected to cover about a quarter of the necessary costs related to the project, said Glenda Forga, executive director of Lewis County Seniors.
A new kitchen would help the nonprofit in its efforts to bring back its Homebound Meals program and expand its ongoing meal delivery program, she said. The move would also allow the nonprofit to support the county’s five senior centers so they can save money on preparing their own meals instead of having to order food.
“There are so many opportunities in expanding the kitchen,” said Forga.
LCS will attempt to regain local control by regaining control of its Homebound Meals program later this summer. Catholic Community Services currently operates the program in Pierce County, but Forga said they believe they have a better understanding of the local elderly community.
Since March 13 and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, all LCS facilities have been closed to ensure the health and well-being of the elderly. While the doors are to remain closed, Forga said she hopes they can reopen this fall.
Throughout the pandemic, the senior center delivered around 157,000 meals through its emergency meal program to seniors in need. Some of this work was done in the Chehalis School District cafeteria, although LCS resumed work in the main kitchen of the Twin Cities Senior Center last summer.
“Looking at it right now, I feel pretty optimistic… But then they talk about another outbreak of the pandemic,” she said, referring to the risk that Lewis County could be demoted to the phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan.
Representative Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, has been easily involved in the events of local senior citizen centers for many years. Whether volunteering, helping the emcee at events, or helping distribute meals during COVID-19, Abbarno said his involvement made him more aware of the needs of the most vulnerable citizens of the community.
“They are an easy group to defend, especially during COVID. This is the kind of vulnerable population that needs support, “Abbarno said, later adding:” They have gone through a a lot of county transitions over the last couple of years… I think it’s important that we give them all the tools they need so that older people, especially in rural communities, get the support they need .
Abbarno is a senior minority deputy on the State Chamber’s capital budget committee. He described the process of reviewing capital budget proposals as remarkably popular, with communities across the state lobbying their representatives in Olympia and outlining the needs of their communities.
Speaking to The Chronicle, Abbarno noted that three principles guide his work on the State Capitol: critical needs, jobs and quality of life. LCS’s request, he said, most certainly answered two of them.
Forga said that after submitting his grant application to the Legislature, they went through an intimidating process of meeting with the committee.
“It was a tough competition. You had to go through the application process and then you are invited to this personal interview through Zoom, ”she said. “You have 10 minutes to speak, and that’s it. It was pretty hard. “
LCS’s attempt to modernize its kitchen – and in so doing, regain control of its local food programs – is part of a larger initiative to keep its senior centers focused on changing needs. needs and demographics of older people, Forga said.
The total cost of updating the LCS kitchen is expected to be around $ 1.2 million. Forga said they will seek additional capital and investment from community members to make their dream come true.
“It’s going to be a really scary thing to get all this money and I’m going to have to go out and beat the streets,” she said. “We just need all the help we can get.”