Serving meals and a slice of community to Sandpoint’s seniors By Abigail Thorpe
Sandpoint Area Seniors, located in the Senior Center at 820 Main Street, has always made its meal program a main priority. “It has always been a meal program, that has always been the main mission, to provide meals for seniors,” says Nancy Savage, the Sandpoint Area Seniors financial officer. “The main focus of our mission is home delivery meals. We do about 2,500 meals a month.” But the center offers so much more than just meals—it provides an opportunity for seniors to socialize and participate in educational and recreational activities.
Started in 1974, the program is celebrating its 46th anniversary this year, and there are exciting changes ahead. They are actively working to get the building refurbished, looking for grants and donations to help finance the renovations, says Alice Wallace, the interim executive director for Sandpoint Area Seniors.
A Sandpoint native, Wallace came to the board of Sandpoint Area Seniors in October after 20 years working with the Bonner Community Food Bank as its director. About a month ago she started as interim executive director and is passionate about growing the center and rejuvenating its meeting spaces and offerings. The center has several spaces they are looking to grow into more opportunities for socializing. “I want to develop that as a meeting place. I think there's a lot that can be done,” says Wallace.
Many of the seniors who walk through the center’s doors are looking for a chance to socialize and get out of the house. Sandpoint Area Seniors offers lunches Monday through Thursday at 11:30am, and a delicious breakfast on Fridays. There is a suggested donation of $4 to help cover some of the costs of keeping the center open and running, but the center will feed anyone who comes in, regardless of payment. “We're very fortunate in that our cook is a chef,” says Wallace of their cook Greg Bolen. “He puts out a great meal.”
Apart from its in-house and delivery meal service, the center also offers various recreational and learning activities, including bingo, pinochle, bridge, and writing and drawing classes. Anyone is welcome to join for Bingo every Wednesday night, as long as they are of age to play. On the second and fourth Saturday of each month a live band comes in to play for their dances, and each year they have volunteers from AARP and SHIBA come in to help with various things like tax preparation, or to help review and find the appropriate health insurance for individuals.
Adjoining the Senior Center is the Daybreak Center—an adult daycare center where caretakers can bring their loved ones in for a few hours of socialization, music, games and brain stimulation. Daybreak is open four days a week and is as much a service for the caretaker as it is for the senior, giving a few hours of much-needed rest. “Respite care is what it’s called,” says Savage. “It’s really a service for the person who is a caregiver.”
Sandpoint Area Seniors has about 12 paid staff and 50 or 60 volunteers “that help in every way imaginable,” says Savage. “People in the community are awesome.” The center relies on donations, volunteer time and grant money to keep its doors open. “We have fundraisers all year where we invite the community,” says Wallace. In the past this has included an annual barbecue with the Injectors Car Club as well as a Mother’s Day Tea.
“The people I have worked with here have been awesome,” says Wallace. “That's the other thing about our employees, they’re so exceptional and they work for so little,” adds Savage. Besides the phenomenal staff that keeps Sandpoint Area Seniors and its various programs running, the community has been wonderful as well. Various people have come forward to make donations for the renovation, including paint and lighting, as well as offering their services to help.
Seniors and family members are welcome to walk in the doors for meals throughout the week or to join in one of the many events going on. The Daily Bee publishes the Senior Center menu so you can see what is coming up, as well as a spotlight on seniors, offering various information on Sandpoint Area Seniors as well as the senior community. For more information, to volunteer or to get in touch with Sandpoint Area Seniors, visit SandpointAreaSeniors.org.
Due to the current health situation and COVID-19, the center is currently only offering delivery meals and meals for pick-up. Events have been postponed or canceled until further notice, and future events are dependent on the upcoming situation. Please reach out to Sandpoint Area Seniors if you have any questions about services during this time, and please be patient as we all navigate the upcoming months.