Following the April 14 meeting attended by some thirty or so Long Valley locals in the North Kane County Events Center, flanked by Commissioner Brent Chamberlain and Jerica Bauer, Director of the Senior Centers, as well as Care & Share, the evening’s moderator, Commissioner Wade Heaton assessed the situation. “I think the biggest thing is that the Valley Senior Center hasn’t been utilized much in the last two or three years. And we didn’t want to close it; but we just wanted to gauge the interest. That’s when the commissioners just started talking about it. And just said, ‘Hey, let’s have a little visit with everybody. See how many people we can get out, and hear from the seniors.’ Because if people will come and utilize it, the funding is there; the program is there. We’ve got people willing to come out and help with it. We want it to happen.”
Continuing, he observed, “You know, helping our seniors is one of the legitimate roles of government. And it’s something that’s morally the right thing to do. So, we want to make it work, if there’s the interest level. And we’re pretty excited, because tonight it sounded like there was.”
Commissioner Chamberlain describing the master plan, said, “We’d love to see this be a center that has people coming in every day playing games, activities, exercise, those kind of things to get this restarted as a program here. I strongly believe there are a lot of people who will benefit from being able to get out of the house to go and socialize and interact with other people. And that’s what these centers are for. So, we’re committed to make that happen. A really good group tonight; a lot of enthusiasm. We’re really excited about getting some new programs here.”
In regard to the scheduled first of May inaugural shift of the county’s “Meals on Wheels” program from Orderville to Kanab, he explained, “Basically, the contractor that’s responsible for the food preparation at the jail: they have some staff who cooks and a supervisor. They use a lot of inmates in the preparation of that food; but they, under contract, prepare the meals for the inmates at the jail. They also have a different menu that they have available for jail staff. For example, if you’re a deputy or something, you may get a meal that’s different from the one that inmates get; there’s a little more variety.
“We worked with them, and they’re just putting together a contract for us. We haven’t seen it yet, the final version; but we pretty much know what the terms will be now, where the same group will prepare the meals for the seniors. But, they have one of the great kitchens in the area; a great staff. They’re able to handle whatever kind of menu we tell them.
“Now, as seniors, there are federal regulations on what the meals have to look like. They have to be approved by a nutritionist every month. And so, there are constraints on what they can prepare for seniors. It makes more sense, and it’s more effective to do it in one location that has the capability to do it in the quantities that we’re talking about.”
And, as to the question of economic viability, he responded, “It is. The biggest problem that we had, really, was hiring staff. So, up to this point in time, we’ve been relying on one person (Tina Hardy, for the past 11 years) to prepare all the meals for all the seniors in Kane County. And nobody works for 365 days a year, you know, or whatever! Everybody has days they have to take off, and they have illnesses and those kinds of things. We never could find the staff to back it up, because it was part-time staff we were looking for. So, that kind of precipitated looking at some other options.
“We didn’t start thinking: ‘Oh, we’re going to go off and have the meals prepared there.’ It made sense to say: ‘Where can we go to the staff to do this? It might be easier to do it in Kanab where there’s a larger workforce.’ But, before we got very far down that road, this idea was suggested as ‘the contractor that prepares the meal for the inmates at the jail.’ And we did that, and it’s led to what I think is going to be a good solution.”
On Monday, April 18, at the soon-to-be-announced renaming, accompanied with corresponding signage of the current Long Valley Seniors Center, Jerica Bauer and newly- appointed staff assistant, Terri Henderson, were conferring about specific details of its day-to-day operations.
Henderson, 66, is a retired 25-year Las Vegas English teacher with prior experience as a sign-language interpreter for the deaf in that school district, who, along with her husband Dennis, Orderville’s Postmaster, have resided locally for the last six years. The high-energy leader states, “My vision for the center, now that Covid has calmed down: There are people who are lonely and don’t have any place to meet. And I want this to be a place where they can meet with their friends. And they get out of their houses, and kind of be our safe place to fall. There’s nothing worse than to feel alone.”
Bauer, 35, a former certified nurses assistant with the Cardio Unit at Dixie Regional Medical Center, and mother of three, who has held her present position for a year, says, “My vision for the whole (Kane County) program: my goal would be for no senior to feel like they’re alone. Loneliness is the worst part of old age. When we lose our loved ones, and we’re all alone and trapped in our homes: that is why the senior center exists. And why community is here: for each other.”
And regarding the altering status of the much-admired soon-to-be-former chef, she offers, “Tina will be working in Kanab. And she’ll be helping us with how we get our funding sources and reporting. And making sure that the kitchens are up-to-par with the state guidelines. She’s ServSafe certified. And we’ll still be using her in the kitchen. She has a lot of experience. A big change for her coming.”