RUPERT • If the heart of a home is its kitchen – how vital is the Minidoka County Senior Center’s continued ability to provide meals for homebound seniors and others at the center five days a week?

Joan Call, chairwoman of the board of directors for the senior center, said when the center was built in 1986 the commercial double oven and commercial range were purchased used. They were 1975 models and are now so old that parts are no longer available. Cost estimates to replace them have come in between $12,000 and $20,000 for the double oven and another $2,000 for the range.

“We have to watch the food very carefully when we’re cooking,” said Mary Bendele, cook at the center.

The top oven doesn’t work at all and the lower one burns food on one side and doesn’t cook at all on the other.

“The cooks constantly have to rotate the pan as the food cooks,” Bendele said.

Only two of the burners on the range work.

“In order to keep the center open, we have to deliver Meals on Wheels,” Call said. “If they quit working altogether it could potentially close the center.”

The center provides 82 meals to homebound seniors Monday through Friday and each participant get an extra two frozen meals on Friday to last over the weekend. The center prepares from 35 to 75 additional meals that are eaten at the center’s dining room five days a week.

“For many of the seniors, this is their home away from home and sometimes it’s the only hot meal they get,” Call said.

Ruth Rowley, vice chairwoman of the center’s board of directors said she has delivered Meals on Wheels before and the service is a lifeline for many participants.

“A lot of times they want you to stay and talk because you are the only person they see all day,” said Rowley.

Call said emergency repairs have a way of sneaking in and pushing back replacement of the kitchen appliances. Recently, a compressor went out on the center’s walk-in freezer, which cost $4,000 to repair, she said.

Betty Martin, board member, said the center operates on some donations from the county and city and other organizations but many of the funding sources are not consistent.

The center holds numerous fundraising dinners and events and is currently selling cinnamon rolls on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The cinnamon rolls cost $1.50 each and can be pre-ordered.

“Sometimes, I think we’re going to have to buy those ovens one cinnamon roll at a time,” said Martin.

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