BELLE FOURCHE –– After 35 years at the Belle Fourche Senior Citizen Center – Belle Silver Linings, the Meals on Wheels program is in a new temporary location at the Belle Fourche Area Community Center.
“We started on Sept. 14 (in the community center) cooking our meals for the Belle Fourche, Nisland, Newell, Vale area,” said George Larson, Meals on Wheels Western South Dakota executive director. “It’s going great; it’s an amazing partnership.”
Prior to the new arrangement with the city, Meals on Wheels partnered with the Belle Fourche Senior Center, now known as Belle Silver Linings, more than three decades.
“It’s been a good partnership with (the senior center) over the last 35 years,” he said.
Larson said that in July, he became aware that the senior center had been planning since the beginning of the year to open an in-house café. The senior center board, along with Laura Bennett, the center’s executive director, notified Meals on Wheels around the end of July that they’d decided not to continue the partnership with the organization and asked Meals on Wheels to vacate the premises by Aug. 18.
Larson said the organization removed its materials and supplies from the center’s kitchen and was actively seeking alternative hosting facilities.
The Belle Fourche City Council approved a six-month lease agreement with Western South Dakota Senior Services, Inc. – Meals on Wheels, allowing them to temporarily move to the community center.
But prior to the new arrangement, the organization improvised to adapt to the unexpected speed bump. Larson said the group temporarily worked out of its Sturgis location to continue offering seniors in Belle Fourche, Newell, Nisland, and Vale.
Bonnie Rosander, the Meals on Wheels employee for the area, drove to Sturgis, picked up the meals, and delivered it to the homes of seniors.
“So, we haven’t had a disruption like sometimes happens when a community changes,” Larson said. “So that’s been a blessing.”
In the month of July, Larson said the organization served approximately 1,000 meals to the Belle Fourche seniors alone.
“We’re committed to providing a nutritious noontime meal that’s hot as well as evening and weekend chilled or frozen meals for any senior 60+ on a donation basis,” he said, adding the organization takes an opportunity during the delivery to check in on the vulnerable population. “And we also provide companionship; it’s a great way of reconnecting the seniors with their community by having community members go to their homes.”
Due to COVID-19, Larson said none of the area Meals on Wheels programs are offering congregate dining. Instead, the organization is opting to hand deliver the meals to area seniors.
Larson said after the six-month lease is over, he and the staff will reevaluate the situation, consider the needs of area seniors, and decide whether to continue in the partnership with the city or pursue other options. Larson seniors in the area are reacting positively to the change. “It’s nice to have (locally prepared) food for Belle Fourche and the local area residents again,” he said. “It’s really going well; we appreciate the city and the community center … and all the great volunteers that made it possible.”
In its October newsletter, Belle Silver Lining announced its “senior meals program,” called the Chuck Wagon Café. The letter states that the café is open for dine in and delivery from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., seven days a week, and suggests a $5 donation per meal. The newsletter asked members of the public to join for it’s “newly dedicated senior meals program.”
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