Commercial kitchen and café on the way for Meals on Wheels

It was an exciting and long-awaited day when Senior Life Resources broke ground on a new 6,000-sq.-ft. commercial kitchen and café for Meals on Wheels.

[blockquote quote=”We expect it to be a popular gathering place where people will socialize and enjoy healthy, nutritious meals in an inviting setting.” align=”right” max_width=”300px” source=”Marcee Woffinen, Meals on Wheels Director”]

Senior Life Resources, which operates Meals on Wheels in the Mid-Columbia, bought the 2.2-acre site at 1824 Fowler St. in Richland in 2012. At some time in the future, the lot will have three 6,100-sq.-ft. buildings: the Meals on Wheels commercial kitchen and café, a Senior Life Resources administrative building, and an administrative office for SSR’s Home Care Services supervisors. But right now, SLR is starting construction on two of the buildings — the Meals on Wheels kitchen and café and the SLR administrative building.

Marcee Woffinen, the Meals on Wheels director, is especially excited about the new kitchen and café. “We prepare about 160,000 meals each year and we have outgrown the kitchens that we have leased and borrowed for years,” Woffinden said. And with the Baby Boomer generation moving into their senior years, demand is expected to double over the next 20 years, she added. Initially, the plans were to build one large building on the site, but the costs were much higher than anticipated, so that idea was scrapped. Leaders began re-thinking the project and decided to develop the property using a campus approach — building three small buildings, each with a specific purpose.

Construction of the new kitchen and café will cost about $975,000, and, through fundraising efforts, Meals on Wheels has that portion covered. “But we still have to come up with money for the equipment,” said Woffinden. That’s expected to cost another $350,000, she said. The group has come up with an adoption program to get the community involved to equip the kitchen.

Already people and businesses are stepping up to help out. Kennewick Industrial &amp Electric has ‘adopted’ sinks, faucets and a garbage disposal. Salon Koru is providing a hand-washing sink and Nancy Aldrich is giving a faucet. Spokane Restaurant Supply is generously offering up a six-burner stove. But there’s a long list of items still needed.
“Every little bit helps and the community has been very generous,” she said. And the people who have been most involved in the construction process, were already involved with Meals on Wheels, said Grant Baynes, executive director of Senior Life Resources.

Don Pratt, the project’s general contractor, is also a Meals on Wheels driver and so is the project manager, Nick Castorina. The building’s design was done by Devi Tate of Tate Architecture in Pasco. Tate’s husband and son are also volunteer drivers, Baynes said. The new kitchen and café will be much more than a place where food for Meals on Wheels is prepared, Woffinden added.

All the food for the Meals on Wheels programs will be prepared at the new kitchen, from packaged meals for the home-bound to the food prepared to be served at area senior and community centers. The new café will offer indoor and patio dining, giving local seniors another option for enjoying the Meals on Wheels dining. Woffinden expects the café to be more convenient for many seniors who live in area to utilize the new facility instead of traveling to senior centers or community centers for lunch.

“We expect it to be a popular gathering place where people will socialize and enjoy healthy, nutritious meals in an inviting setting,” she said. The new kitchen will also be used for cooking classes and education, and give Meals on Wheels the opportunity to accept donations from local farmers of fresh, locally-grown produce. “Before, we didn’t have any storage, so we couldn’t take it,” Woffinden said. “This will save us money and add nutrition to the program. And hopefully, we’ll be able to create some partnerships with local growers,” she said.

The new Meals on Wheels kitchen & café and Senior Life Resources administrative building are expected to be complete in summer 2016. To donate to the project or volunteer, call 509-735-1911. For more information about Meals on Wheels or Senior Life Resources, go to www.seniorliferesources.org.

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