Dinner program returns to Monticello Senior Center

Reasonably priced noon meals offered up in a friendly social setting officially return to next week to the Monticello Senior Center.

Starting Tuesday, June 3, four local restaurants will begin a unique community partnership aimed at providing economically priced meals lost earlier this year when Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud closed the Monticello Senior Center dining site because of federal budget cuts.

“We never had a program cut before,” said Monticello Senior Center Director Pam Loidolt. “Our last day as a subsidized program was Dec. 31, 2013.”

That action left the Monticello Senior Center in a lunchtime lurch the first part of this year because seniors at the Monticello site now had to look at other options.

It wasn’t long before Loidolt started looking for an alternative. “When we lost our dining program, we lost $4,000 a year,” she said. “That’s how much Catholic Charities chipped in to have the program here.”

The Monticello Senior Center is a community focal point, serving the needs of older adults, their families, and area residents interested in information about services for the elderly.

The center, located at 505 Walnut St., is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Loidolt began contacting local restaurants to see if they could provide assistance. She started sending out emails and faxes and making follow-up phone calls.

“I told them that our senior dining program had ended after 18 years due to budget cuts, and we were not able to provide a reasonably priced meal for seniors in a social setting,” Loidolt said. “We wanted to see if anybody was willing to enter into a partnership with us.”

Sue Swiecichowski from the Cornerstone Café was the first to come on board,  Loidolt said, adding she followed up next with Mike Carter, owner of the Monticello Corner Café. “Mike and Sue and I sat down in person and chatted. Sue gave me a whole bunch of restaurant contacts That’s how I was able to contact Mariann Khauv at Chin Yuen and Mary Rogness, the manager of VFW Post 8731.”

The Monticello Corner Café will serve meals Tuesdays, Chin Yuen Wednesdays, VFW Post 8731 Thursdays and Cornerstone Café on Fridays. “We have those four on board,” Loidolt said. “The restaurants are charging us $3.50 and the meals will cost $4. That means 50 cents of every meal comes to the senior center.  They are just doing this to help us out. These restaurants have really stepped up to the plate. That’s what the community of Monticello is all about.”

Loidolt said the center will still use the age 55-plus and spouse criteria for serving the noon meals. “We are not calling this the return of senior dining, because that’s confusing things with a federally funded program,” she said. “We are calling it the ‘dinner program’ or senior dinner program.”

The Monticello Senior Center will be printing a monthly menu so diners will know in advance what’s being served. The cost is $4 per meal and people age 55 and older and their spouses, regardless of age, welcome to eat at the center.

According to Loidolt , since the new dinner program is not a subsidized program, people must pay $4 per meal and must pay for the meals they order.  People need to sign up for the meals at least one day in advance by 1 p.m. so Loidolt can get accurate meal counts to the restaurants.
“It’s going to be a learning curve for us, no question,” Loidolt said. “We have to get to know all four restaurants, and how the food delivery process will work.”
Loidolt said she’s still need of volunteers to deliver the food from the restaurants to the senior center.  Please call Loidolt at 763-295-2000 if you are interested.

Contact Tim Hennagir at tim.hennagir@ecm-inc.com

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