Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Senior center closes for remodel

Hailey facility to reopen in October

Express Staff Writer

Members of the Blaine County Senior Connection in Hailey will have to find new gathering places over the next four weeks as the facility’s kitchen undergoes an extensive overhaul.

Senior Connection Executive Director Kim Coonis said the building would probably be closed through Oct. 16 as local contractors Sawtooth Construction and Dean Beaudet Construction tear up the kitchen’s floors, walls and appliances.

“Our kitchen was so old,” Coonis said. “The floor was dangerous, and you couldn’t get around in it. It was a kitchen put together 30 years ago, and it needs to be redone.”

The Senior Connection provides between 175 and 255 meals to seniors each day at its facility and through Meals on Wheels.

Coonis said demand for those programs has grown, placing more pressure on the already strained kitchen. 

The remodel is being funded by public and private funds. A $150,000 community block grant, a $50,000 donation from the late philanthropist Jim Cimino (given before his death in late July) and a $22,000 donation from the Wattis-Dumke Foundation will be used on the kitchen itself. A $50,000 grant from the Nancy Eccles and Homer N. Hayward Family Foundation will be used to remodel the chef’s office and to build a juice and coffee bar.

Coonis said she isn’t sure exactly how much the remodel will cost, as assessment is still being done at the space.

“It’s getting worse, the more they tear into stuff and see what the problems are,” she said. 

For the next few weeks, most services at the Senior Connection have been suspended. Coonis said the Connection Club, which provides support for caregivers of seniors with Alzheimer’s and other similar conditions, would not be running until October.

The organization is still providing in-home care, but no new clients will be added until the center reopens in October.

Seniors will be able to go to the Wicked Spud and Shorty’s Diner in Hailey for specially discounted meals for $5 and under. Coonis said seniors should show their membership cards when ordering. 

Coonis said she appreciated the support she’s received from the restaurant and the community in anticipation of the temporary closure.

“Everyone’s been great,” she said. “Everyone is trying really hard to make it reasonable.”

The Senior Connection bus will run Tuesday through Thursday weekly, taking seniors to Shorty’s Diner, the bank, Atkinsons’ Market and the Hailey Post Office on Tuesdays and Thursdays and to the Wicked Spud on Wednesday. Seniors needing transportation should contact 721-4101.

Coonis said Meals on Wheels would continue delivering on Tuesdays and Fridays, with meals prepared at the Sustainability Center in Hailey and delivered to current clients. No new recipients will be added until after Oct. 16.

Coonis said the closure has naturally been tough on both the center’s staff and the seniors it serves.

“We touch the lives of over 200 people a day,” she said. “Being shut down for this month is difficult for all of us, and [seniors] are struggling. It’s the country club, it’s social hour, and it’s hard.”

Kate Wutz:

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