Senior center closes, lunches moved to Elks Lodge

by nathan oster

Cashier and greeter Dixie Cummings and cooks Dorinda Furnell and Deanna Beckhoff took a break from their duties to lead a chorus of “Happy Birthday” Tuesday afternoon as a group of senior citizens celebrated another trip around the sun for some of their friends while dining on carved pork and mashed potatoes.

Other than that, the only thing that made it different than any other day was the setting.

The South Big Horn Senior Center, where they usually gather for meals and socializing, closed earlier this month for the most significant renovation since the facility was constructed in the late 1970s. Starting May 12, lunches have been offered and enjoyed at the Greybull Elks Lodge.

“It’s been working out very well,” said Cynthia Johnson, the center’s executive director. “I was a little freaked out about whether they’d make the adjustment, but they’ve just been awesome about it.

“I want to thank them all for supporting (the lunch program) at the Elks.”

Johnson said about a year’s worth of planning has gone into the renovation project.

Revenue from the tax that supports the South Big Horn Senior Citizen’s Service District is being used to pay for the improvements, which are expected to cost approximately $130,000.

While a new appliance has been added here or there over the years, the kitchen was in many ways in its original condition. After more than three decades of heavy use, it was time for an upgrade.

The focal point of the renovations is the kitchen, but the dining room is also getting a new floor and fresh paint on the walls. An 18-inch, commercial-grade tile will be used in both the dining room and kitchen, one that is “textured, non-slip — and totally maintenance free,” according to Johnson.

Kasie Stewart, who manages the kitchen, said she’s excited about what the new kitchen is going to look like. Among the most eagerly-anticipated improvements are a stackable convection oven, new stoves and additional storage space.

The renovations are expected to take four to six weeks, which would put the senior back in their familiar surroundings by mid to late June.