Senior citizens who gather at the Irving Center for lunch learned this week that meal service at the senior center was ending.
The Irving Center, 704 N. Oak St., has closed so the city can begin preparations to demolish it and make way for a new senior citizens center. Officials are hoping to tear down the old building sometime next quarter, which runs from October through December, so construction on the new senior center can begin.
The meal service has been suspended while the Southern Oklahoma Nutrition Program and city officials continue to look for a new site. Southern Oklahoma Nutrition received federal funding to supply the meals, while the city provided space in the Irving Center.
Even though the city does not provide food for the program, officials wanted to help Southern Oklahoma Nutrition with the search for a new site so the meal service can continue, parks and public facilities director Scott Lowrance said Thursday.
“We want to do everything possible that we can to aid Southern Nutrition in finding another location so our seniors are served,” he said.
Lowrance and public information director Lisa Bratcher said they met with a group of seniors on Wednesday to answer questions. They also let the seniors know that the city will continue working with Southern Oklahoma Nutrition to find a solution to the problem.
Ada resident Linda Baker, who frequently ate lunch at the senior center, said she was optimistic that officials would find a new site for the meal service.
“It may not be ideal, but they will come up with something,” she said.
Starting the search
In March, city officials began meeting with representatives from Southern Oklahoma Nutrition to start the search for a new meal site. The city also reached out to Ada City Schools and the Chickasaw Nation for assistance.
Lowrance said city officials contacted several organizations, including area churches and the Abba’s Tables soup kitchen, to see if they could accommodate the seniors.
“It was a larger undertaking than some of these groups were able to manage with their kitchen facilities and what they had,” he said.
Lowrance said officials thought they had found a suitable location at the Glenwood Resource Center, 825 W. 10th St. The building, which belongs to the school district, houses a variety of school-related programs.
The city had originally set a deadline of July 1 for moving meal service from the Irving Center to Glenwood, but that deadline was later moved to Aug. 15 to accommodate the end of summer school at Glenwood and ensure a seamless transition to the new location.
But relocation plans hit a snag on Monday, when city officials learned that Southern Oklahoma Nutrition would not be relocating to Glenwood — and that the Irving Center program would end on Wednesday.
“The reason they gave us is that it was not a viable option for them,” Lowrance said. “We were under the impression it was from every conversation that we had through Southern Nutrition and Chickasaws and the city of Ada.”
Lisa Bratcher said Southern Oklahoma Nutrition has said it will continue to provide meals for homebound seniors during the transition period.
Southern Oklahoma Nutrition, whose Pauls Valley office receives funding for the meal service, did not return a call seeking comment before press time Friday.
Lowrance said the city will continue to assist Southern Oklahoma Nutrition in finding a new home for the senior meal service.
“If they find a location that’s not convenient for the seniors, then we will work with public transportation and we will work in every way possible we can to provide transportation for the seniors,” he said. “We will do everything we can.”
Lowrance said he could not promise that the city would feed the seniors, since it does not receive federal funding to provide a meal service. He said city officials want to make sure meal service continues, but they also need to move forward with plans for the new senior center.
“That’s kind of why we’re in a conundrum with that, because the appearance is that the city of Ada doesn’t care about our seniors because no one provides service,” he said. “And that’s the furthest from the truth.
“They’re our citizens. They deserve the meal. And they deserve a new senior center, which we’re going to provide for them.”If construction proceeds according to schedule, the new senior center may be up and running by January 2019.
The project is financed by part of the proceeds from an extension of Ada’s Penny for Our City sales tax, which funds a series of capital improvements.