OPINION COLUMNS

New kitchen is good news for seniors

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, December 9, 2017
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If it seems like the world is filled with bad news right now, Wise County had a bit of long-awaited good news this week.

Wise County’s Meals on Wheels program held a grand opening for its new kitchen this week, and this might be one of those events that we look back at years from now and see just how important this moment was in creating new opportunities for seniors in Wise County.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

At least that’s what the Wise County Committee on Aging and many others who have served Wise County senior population over the years are hoping for.

I first heard about the plan to convert the old Chico Elementary School’s kitchen into a kitchen where meals could be cooked for delivery to senior shut-ins in the county nearly five years ago. The facility is now the Chico City Hall complex.

But plans for the kitchen go back much longer than that.

For various reasons, the kitchen didn’t become a reality until this year. Better late than never, perhaps.

I visited with WCCA Executive Director Amy Pegues and WCCA Food Service Executive Chef William Boyd this week as they were preparing for the opening of the kitchen, and I was impressed not only with what they are doing now but what they hope to do in the future.

The reality is the senior population in Wise County is growing right along with the overall population growth in the county. In addition to those who count on Meals on Wheels to provide meals during the week, there are those whose needs extend beyond food.

For instance, Pegues said many years ago, the WCCA provided someone who could come in and spend an hour cleaning a person’s house. But due to funding restraints and a growing number of clients, they haven’t been able to offer that service in recent years.

There is hope that the kitchen can be utilized beyond simply cooking meals for clients. Perhaps the kitchen and the adjoining community room could be used to host fundraisers for WCCA, leading to increased funding to provide more services such as house cleaning.

Boyd said he has also had interest from local restaurants for pies that could either be prepared and cooked in the kitchen or prepared and frozen in the kitchen (and then baked in the restaurant).

Catering could also be a future possibility, and another source of funding for the program.

The kitchen also provides more volunteer opportunities. Pegues said all kitchen volunteers will be sent to food handlers class, and they will be required to have a food handlers license to work in the kitchen.

They also have an ongoing need for volunteer drivers to help deliver the meals.

The needs of local seniors are great, but with the dedicated work of volunteers coupled with a new resource like the kitchen, even more of those needs can be met both now and in the future.

That’s good news.

Brian Knox is the special projects manager of the Messenger.

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