GAYS MILLS - The Aging & Disability Resource Center let more than 50 senior citizens get a sneak preview of what they have planned for 2023 in Gays Mills.
The senior meal site in the northern part of the county is switching from Desperados in Soldiers Grove to the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center, at 16381 State Highway 131.
The Crawford County ADRC hosted the holiday dinner at what will be the new meal site in Gays Mills on Wednesday, April 14.
The ham meal, with mashed potatoes and green beans and more, was cooked from scratch with fresh vegetables. The ADRC has contracted with a chef and rented a kitchen space in Prairie du Chien, where all the meals will be cooked for both the Prairie du Chien and the Gays Mills meal sites.
The daily meals will be delivered to Kickapoo Culinary Center in the Community Commerce Center, where they will be served. Meals delivered to seniors in the northern part of the county will be loaded and delivered from that site.
The crowd of seniors at the Gays Mills event was in a good mood from the start, and a visit from Santa made everyone even happier.
Crawford County ADRC Director Roby Fuller spoke briefly to the group before the meal, explaining the changes and what the new plans at the meal site would include.
Everyone from Fuller to meal site hostess Elaine Hemmersbach seemed pretty excited about the changes to the program. The current program averages about 20 to 25 diners at the meal site, and another 25 home-delivered meals, which driver Lori Dalton will help pack up in Gays Mills and then deliver in the northern part of the county.
Fuller emphasized in her remarks that the strength of the program as envisioned, lies with the chef and the local vendor partnerships.
“We’re cooking our own food,” Fuller stated emphatically at one point.
All thumbs up
For the holiday diners, it was all thumbs up. A survey focused on the night’s meal showed lots of five-out-five ratings from the assembled seniors.
At one point, Fuller noted that while doing some research on the program, she learned the very first senior meal site in Crawford County was opened in Gays Mills in 1978.
A lot of these planned improvements in the county senior meals program were made possible by a grant from the State of Wisconsin, Fuller said.
The program is centered in Prairie du Chien at the Sharing Spaces Kitchen. Not only does it have its own chef and part-time cook, the program also employs workers with disabilities from the Opportunity Center-that’s another plus.
“The other part that’s neat is using people from the Opportunity Center allows those individuals to learn kitchen skills,” the ADRC Director explained.
The key to the program now is scratch cooking, according to Fuller. There will be no instant mashed potatoes and no canned vegetables.
“We will source and use as much as we can locally,” Fuller said. “You may have to give us a little grace time at the beginning to get rolling, but we are starting in January.”
One meal of the month will be unique. Mike Valley, a local commercial fisherman, has pledged to donate enough Mississippi River catfish to provide the meal sites with one meal every month.
Meals are available to anyone aged 60 or over for the suggested donation of $4. Anyone participating must fill out an application once a year supplying some basic information. It is also necessary to make a reservation for a meal at least 24-hours in advance with the site hostess. That means calling 608-412-1082.
Meal sites are open Monday through Friday, at 11:30 a.m., with the exception of holidays.
While Fuller and others involved with the ADRC meal site are excited to see the program expand, they emphasized that Desperados in Soldiers Grove had always been a great partner and a fine meal site.
“We have nothing but great things to say about working with them,” Fuller said of Desperados. “Moving to the new meal site had nothing to do with our working relationship with them, which was excellent, or the quality of product being served. We’re moving because we’re changing the program. Desperados always does a great job.”
The first meal to be served at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. The meal on opening day will be a chicken stir fry over brown rice, with peppers and onions, snap peas and broccoli, with a chocolate chip cookie and grapes.See you there–and don’t forget to call at least 24 hours in advance to make your reservation.