Feeling the love: The Center readies for big Valentine’s Day luncheon

February 6, 2019

On the morning of Feb. 1, The Center Manager Andrew Davidson and Nutrition Food Director/Cook Candace Schaefer were all smiles looking over a finalized menu.

Homemade chicken fried chicken steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, California blend vegetables, rolls and milk. It’s what on tap for Valentine’s Day lunch at noon on Feb. 14. Those and red velvet cupcakes with buttercream frosting for dessert will be ready. The latter rarely make the cut, but with Valentine’s and all, it made sense.

“It’s not on the menu often,” Schaefer said, with a smile. “But we were talking. It’s just another holiday that comes around, but anybody is welcome to come and eat. You don’t have to have a special someone to just enjoy a good meal and company.”

The Center, 124 E. 12th St., has been through quite a bit of change lately. The facility dropped ‘senior’ from its name in an attempt to diversify its users and make it a place open to people of all ages. It also saw Davidson take over as manager on Dec. 5, 2018. The former Center volunteer said he’s excited about many of the changes in store for 2019, but thought bringing back the annual Valentine’s Day luncheon fit in perfectly with attracting more people to the downtown Schuyler staple.

“We’re trying to invite as many couples to come as possible, but we would love single people to come out as well,” Davidson said. “This really is a meal open to all.”

Anyone 60 and older can eat for a suggested contribution of $4.25, while those younger can for a fixed price of $7.75. It’s not just about food, though. The Center will be decked out in roses and prizes will be given out to the oldest and youngest couples.

Then there’s the 25-15-10 raffle. It’s modeled after the 50/50 concept, however, works a little bit differently. Fifty percent of all dollar donations raised will go toward helping The Center with operation costs, while three winners will take home 25, 15 and 10 percent of the remaining pot, respectively.

Attendees will also have a shot at winning a bus trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, and gift cards to area businesses, like Didier’s Grocery.

“So it should be a lot of fun,” Davidson said, noting free bingo with prizes was added on to a busy event schedule during the holiday lunch.

Fun is the vibe those at The Center go for on a daily basis. On Feb. 1, more than a dozen residents were on hand visiting among themselves while enjoying coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls. Jackson and Schaefer went table to table chatting with their guests before settling down at one with a local women’s group.

The two Center employees and the group spent close to a half an hour debating meals to put on the coming menu, laughing and chatting along the way. For Schaefer, those interactions are a big part of why she loves her job.

“This is perfect,” she said, with a big smile. “I love to cook, I love menu planning, I just love visiting with the folks and seeing what they like. It’s always a challenge every day to get everybody what they want, but it’s a great atmosphere. We have a great community here between the regulars who come and others.”

Mildred Salak was among the group going over planned menus that morning. She praised Davidson and Schaefer for their efforts, noting her great appreciation to Schaefer when it comes to what she called a tough gig.

“Candy does a beautiful job working with a variety of people and trying to please everyone in a senior center. It’s not an easy job,” she assured. “But, she’s always willing to work with the public and does it extremely well.”

Davidson said the Valentine’s Day luncheon has historically been popular, however, he is hoping he can get dozens of people to come to check out the facility that day and beyond. Even if people aren’t necessarily interested in what it has to offer, he said at the very least those who decide to come might potentially help out a fellow resident in need of a friend.

“We want to make sure our older population has access to good food and companionship and not just staying at home,” Davidson said. “So come out and meet some new people. That’s what this is about.”

Salak said she’s hope Colfax County residents will turn out in droves.

“I would love to see more people come out, especially on Valentine’s Day,” she said. “Why not?”

Those interested in attending the Valentine Day’s luncheon are asked to call ahead of time. The Center can be reached at 402-352-5009.

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.