Free in-person community meals for seniors return to the Council on Aging of Central Oregon's Senior Services Center this week, after a long hiatus. CoA kicks off the return to in-person dining for seniors on Wednesday with a free Thanksgiving meal from 11am to 1pm. Following that, CoA will once again start serving midday meals Wednesdays through Friday every week (though the center is closed this Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday).
Between the pandemic and the purchase of a new building, the return of this vital offering for seniors in need of connection and belonging has been a long time coming.
CoA bought the old Bend Community Center on NE 5th Street four years ago and has been renovating it ever since. The new facility will open with limited hours this week, through early 2023, when it will be fully operational, five days a week, featuring an information and referral hub, a dining hall, a community room, social areas, computer stations, a production kitchen and administrative offices.
To ensure local seniors had access to the meals CoA typically provides, the nonprofit moved to a grab-and-go model during the pandemic. With the return of the in-person dining component, CoA's leadership is excited to restore some of its most critical services.
"Community dining is core to our mission to reduce hunger, isolation and loneliness in the Central Oregon senior community," CoA's Executive Director Susan Rotella stated in a press release. "The Council on Aging of Central Oregon's operations evolved rapidly to meet the changing needs of our vulnerable community throughout the pandemic, and we are thrilled to be able to bring seniors back together for the holiday season and beyond. We look forward to opening the doors of our new Senior Services Center to be a gathering space and resource hub for older adults throughout Central Oregon."
The newly reopened center is located at 1036 NE 5th Street in Bend. Meals are free for people age 60 and over, but donations are suggested. Guests under 60 are also welcome and can pay a $5 fee for lunch. The menu for the regular Wednesday-through-Friday lunches changes daily. More information is available at councilonaging.org.