After Marie Tilley’s husband died in 2001, she started coming to the Firstenburg Community Center’s senior lounge and eating lunch at Meals on Wheels People’s dining room.
“This has given me an outlet,” she said. “My group is my family.”
The last meal served Friday at the center’s congregate dining room was pizza, salad and cake. Tilley said she’ll continue visiting the community center’s senior lounge to do puzzle and games with her friends, but she’ll just go home afterwards instead of going to lunch.
Meals on Wheels People said closing its operations at Firstenburg was a financial decision. Not enough people were visiting the dining room to justify the cost. It cost $317,751 annually to run Meals on Wheels operations at Firstenburg. Meals served at the center have decreased 13 percent over the last two years.
On average, about 140 meals were delivered out of that location, and 14 to 15 clients dined there each weekday. More people than normal showed up for the final meal.
“I come here for the interaction with people,” Yochanon Snook said. “I was a professional cook for 20 years. There’s nothing they do back there that I haven’t done.”
You Can Help
• What: Pawchella, a pet-friendly music festival, benefits Meals on Wheels People along with Camas Parks & Recreations, Share, Friends of Camas Arts and the Humane Society for Southwest Washington. Entertainment includes Ty Curtis, 5 Guys Named Moe and Flexor T.
• When: 2 to 8 p.m. July 9.
• Where: Camas Meadows Gold Club, 4105 N.W. Camas Meadows Drive.
• More info: http://concertsforacausenw.com
Meals on Wheels dining rooms in Clark County
Lunch is typically served between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Meals cost $7.39, and diners are asked to pay what they can afford.
• Luepke Center: Monday through Friday, 1009 E. McLoughlin Blvd., Vancouver.
• Battle Ground Community Center: Monday through Friday, 912 E. Main St., Battle Ground.
• Washougal Community Center: Monday through Thursday, 1681 C St., Washougal.
• Mt. Valley Grange: Mondays and Wednesdays, 40107 N.E. 221st Ave., Amboy.
• Ridgefield Community Center: Tuesdays, 210 N. Main St., Ridgefield.
• La Center Community Center: Thursdays, 1000 E. Fourth St., La Center.
Interested in Meals on Wheels home delivery? Call Janice at 360-695-3847
Driving routes for home-delivered meals were reassigned based on which center they were closest to, said Julie Piper Finley, director of marketing and communications. There are delivery sites at the Luepke, Washougal and Battle Ground community centers.
Meals on Wheels People, which covers Clark, Multnomah and Washington counties, has operated dining and delivery services out of Firstenburg Community Center for 10 years. Other centers in Oregon’s Multnomah and Washington counties are also closing because congregate dining is not as popular as it used to be.
Jody Grant, Meals on Wheels People’s operations and program manager, said the city of Sherwood, Ore., took over the senior dining program while home deliveries were shifted to the Meals on Wheels center in Tualatin, Ore.
No other dining rooms in Clark County are closing, Piper Finley said.
Firstenburg Center Director Angela Brosius said there aren’t any potential partners set to use the commercial kitchen and adjoining dining space. “We are open to discussing future partnerships with those in the community,” she said in an email.
While the Firstenburg dining room closed, Meals on Wheels People looks to replace it by renovating a former restaurant on Mill Plain Boulevard and opening a cafe-style model in early 2018. The address was not disclosed because the nonprofit is in lease negotiations, but Piper Finley said if that location falls through, other commercial spaces in the area would be considered.
“We do really want to keep it in that area where Firstenburg is located now,” she said.
The nonprofit is aiming to open the restaurant somewhere between the dining rooms at the Washougal Community Center and the Luepke Center in west Vancouver.
Like other Meals on Wheels centers, there would be just two paid employees: a manager and a chef. Other cafe staff would work unpaid as part of an employment training program. Meals on Wheels participants could continue to pay what they can afford for a meal while other, younger patrons would pay a set menu price. The intent is to offer breakfast and lunch seven days a week.
Offering a combined service — where people of all ages eat together but seniors can get subsidized meals — is supposed to make it more like a real restaurant.
When asked what she thought about the prospective restaurant, Tilley said, “We’ll just have to wait and see.”
“There are a lot of cafes around here,” said Margaret Buschman, another Meals on Wheels client. “I think they’re duplicating what we already have.”
She considers the location of the dining room at Firstenburg convenient because she can swim or do other activities in the same building. Although she’s debated visiting the Battle Ground dining room, she’s unsure whether she’ll end up going.
“We wanted to give everybody that normal neighborhood restaurant experience, including our senior diners,” Piper Finley said. “One of the reasons we’re doing this is we know people want more choice and more flexibility.”
Maybe somebody would rather come in at 8 a.m. for Sunday brunch rather than noon on a weekday. No Meals on Wheels dining rooms are open on weekends, and weekend meals are delivered on Fridays.
Meals on Wheels People looked at a what other organizations are doing. Grounds for Opportunity Cafe, a cafe and training kitchen in Kelso, serves breakfast and lunch. The Sandbar, a “cafe with a cause” in Marsing, Idaho, serves Meals on Wheels seniors, as well as the general paying public.