News: Neillsville - Schmitty’s to Serve as Congregate Meal Site (2022)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: McDonald, Harder, Henchen, Hartung, Ehlers

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 8/31/2022

Schmitty’s to Serve as Congregate Meal Site (2022)

The Clark County Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is excited to collaborate with Schmitty’s on Main to offer a congregate meal site to seniors. Shown are (front, l-r) ADRC director Lynne McDonald, Schmitty’s owner Darla Harder and Schmitty’s employees Lee Ann Henchen, (back) Mary Hartung and Sue Ehlers. Valorie Brecht/Clark County Press photo

By Valorie Brecht

The Clark County Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is trying something new to offer a service to the community.

Schmitty’s on Main in Neillsville will serve as a congregate meal site for the Elder Nutrition Program, starting Sept. 1. Seniors will have the opportunity to receive meal vouchers from the ADRC to use at the restaurant. The program is being billed as “Café 60.”

“Our traditional congregate centers have slowly been losing participants. So, we started looking for alternatives, to go where the people are going,” said ADRC director Lynne McDonald.

McDonald people watched at Schmitty’s several times and saw many seniors spending time there. Schmitty’s staff estimated that at least 35% to 40% of the customers are age 60 and older.

Given the restaurant’s clientele, McDonald thought it would be a good location to try as a congregate meal site, so she reached out to Darla Harder, who owns Schmitty’s along with her husband, Grant. Harder liked the idea, and she and McDonald started fleshing out a menu.

The program is unique to the area.

“This a newer nutrition model. I believe there are four of them in the state. We modeled ours off of Wautoma in Waushara County,” said McDonald.

She said there were several positives to Café 60.

“We wanted to promote businesses in the community. It’s a good way to support them and be in partnership with them. Also, the participants have a menu, so they get a choice as to what they want,” said McDonald. “People can choose who they want to eat with, when they want to eat and what they want to eat.”

The program is open to those 60 and older, any spouse or domestic partner of someone age 60 or older, and disabled adults who live with someone age 60 or older. Spouses, domestic partners or disabled adults must attend the dining location with the person aged 60 or older.

People can sign up by contacting the ADRC at 715-743-5166 or 1-866-743-5144 and they will be given a “welcome packet,” including forms to fill out. After the ADRC receives the completed forms, meal vouchers will be mailed to the participant in two to three business days. The maximum number of vouchers available per participant per calendar month is 20.

There is no income requirement to participate.

“A lot of people think that our programs are for people on a fixed income, but that’s not the case,” said McDonald.

There is a suggested contribution of $5 per meal. However, no individual will be denied a meal due to an inability to pay. The meals are funded through state and federal grants, local tax dollars and participant contributions. Participant contributions account for 12% of the annual nutrition program funding.

“Like other Older Americans Act programs, there is an opportunity to contribute for those who have the means to contribute,” said McDonald.

The program voucher includes a tip, so participants should not feel obligated to leave a separate tip.
Participants can choose to request five, 10 or 20 vouchers. Participants are asked not to request more vouchers than they will use, and to use the vouchers they receive in a timely manner. Vouchers will expire at the end of the calendar year and participants will not receive a refund for any unused vouchers.

Vouchers are for the participant’s use only. They cannot be borrowed to any other person, even if they are enrolled in the program. Participants are asked to present their voucher when seated the table.

The vouchers can only be used with the Café 60 menu. Harder and McDonald worked together to design a menu with three breakfast choices and four lunch choices, along with a Friday night fish fry option.

“We picked out items already on the menu that are popular, but expanded them to cover the nutritional guidelines of the Elder Nutrition Program,” said McDonald.

“We wanted a good variety and wanted a salad for sure,” said Harder. “This menu is also dietician-approved.”

Program participants will not be able to substitute items in their meal or split the meal with someone else. Carryout meals are not allowed with this program, although people can still take home leftovers, the reason being that one of the program’s purposes is to encourage socialization.

“Being social is a big part of it. Oftentimes, I’ll see people talking to people they know in other booths. I really like to see that social aspect,” said Harder.

“It’s really what I would call a safety check for some people too,” said McDonald. “Because if you have a person that comes in all the time and all of a sudden, they stop coming, that might prompt you to check in on that person and make sure everything’s OK.”

Café 60 is just one more opportunity for building community among the existing programs the ADRC offers.

The ADRC is not discontinuing all of its congregate meal sites; it still has sites in Greenwood and Owen. It also offers a monthly “Lunch and Learn” program at the Greenwood and Loyal libraries. However, McDonald feels Café 60 will meet a specific need.

“The senior center in Neillsville has not really been operational for a couple of years. We have a small group of six or seven people that come in and play cards, but people haven’t been coming for the meals… Neillsville has been underserved for some time, because of the lack of people attending the center. So we feel we will have better luck going to public places and meeting people where they’re at,” she said.

She and Harder hope many seniors will give the program a try. Café 60 will be available during Schmitty’s business hours, which are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Meals will be cooked to order.

There is no residency requirement for Elder Nutrition Program, so those 60 and older who do not live in Clark County may still participate.

For more information, call 715-743-5166 or 1-866-743-5144.



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