Ok – seriously – how many of you reading this story have eaten at the Senior Center in Driggs? It’s okay, you’re alone with your coffee and paper and no one will judge you if you have never, ever had a meal with the Seniors West of the Tetons.
Except me. I’ll judge you. I’m judging you right now because truth be told, I was like so many humming along through my day, all the while overlooking a tiny little gem of a place beating in the heart of downtown Driggs.
It’s lemon chicken and orzo day at the senior center when I walk into the spacious dining room, the warm spring sunlight slatted through the blinds on the west side of the building. Folks are starting to arrive for lunch, served daily at noon, five days of week. I love the salad bar, a nice feature earned through a grant from the Community Foundation of Teton Valley. It’s lovely, fresh and does not have a per-pound cost attached to it, it comes with the affordable cost of lunch, $6.
Will is the new chef at the center and he’s seasoning the orzo when I walk back into the kitchen to greet another new-ish face, River Osborn, the executive director who took the helm of the nonprofit last fall.
Lunch guests start to arrive and River is icing a birthday cake, because there is always something to celebrate. “I wear many hats,” laughs River as Will looks over her shoulder quietly eye-balling her work.
It’s the Seniors’ 40th anniversary this year. And that is something to celebrate said board chair Carol Lichti as we sit down to dive into a beautiful, hot plate of chicken, orzo and green beans, with a side salad of course, and choice of drink.
“I’ve really learned just how important the senior center and this organization is to the community,” said Carol of her time on the board. “This is a small valley with a lot of nonprofits and it’s reassuring to know how generous this community is.”
In 2018, the nonprofit provided 3,625 meal including 816 home-delivered meals; 270 in-house deliveries were managed this March alone due to weather. Carol said that the nonprofit established 40 years ago this month serves not only the more than 2,000 people in the senior community, but has also worked to serve the community at large. She said that fitness class attendance is at an all time high as well as the health education clinics. Yeah, did you know there were fitness classes? I know!
For River, perhaps the biggest lesson she’s learned thus far in her short tenure is just how much the community does not know about the organization. For example, said River, did you know that the Senior Center is available for event rentals? They can and will cater your events. They host local artists and professionals for lunch discussions and events including the most recent with the celebrated state poetry champ Mason Moore, the Teton Middle School string band, and the Hispanic Resource Center dancers.
“We have a very active community and many do not consider themselves seniors,” said River. “We are trying to redefine what it means to be a senior in a community where many are still so physically strong and still running marathons.”
The cake is out and the candles are lit. Happy Birthday Senior’s West of the Tetons. We’re grateful this community can have their cake and eat it too.
For more information, please see www.tetonseniors.com. See you at lunch.