COMANCHE — The Comanche Nutrition Center is usually always hopping at lunch time, as all citizens are welcome to eat. There are suggested donations, but for those who experience food insecurity there is no charge.
The many activities, health checks and more is why the center was named the 2019 “Champion of Senior Health” as part of the annual Champions of Health awards by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Oklahoma.
The BCBS was on hand to film the daily comings and goings on at the center from the band, the puzzle makers in the back, the chatting groups at tables and the hard workers in the kitchen.
The video will be shown at the Champions of Health Gala on Sept. 26 and around the nation at corporate events.
Although, things weren’t always so peachy for the center.
In 2016, the city took over the site from the Association of South Central Oklahoma Governments (ASCOG) which was going to have to close the site due to Oklahoma’s revenue failure.
The city saved it by going independent, which means it does not receive some of the funding through ASCOG but has funding through the County Sales Tax and Community Expansion for Nutrition Assistance (CENA) grant program, and other grants plus fundraisers when needed.
Deborah Hunter, site director, said it was really the community stepping up to help that they could do what they do every day.
“We got down to where we were almost closing the doors — it was within days probably,” she said. “Our community rallied around us and has been giving monthly donations. The people who come here — the congregate, they are paying for their meals. Our home delivered meal people, there are so many of those who can’t afford to pay — if it’s a husband and wife say that’s $120 month. The community sends me checks to pay for those home delivered meal people. Even some … who live out of state, they are sending money to us to take care of their family, their people.”
The support has been wonderful according to Hunter.
“I think that’s what truly surprised me is how people have given money and supported us,” she said.
Before the honor, the center was able to get a new sign and a new passenger van. Also, they are working with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to get food at a lower cost helping their dollar stretch.
“It’s a great help because our county money and our CENA grant pays for that food,” she said. “We can get a huge order from the food bank and it’s around $100 where it would be hundreds of dollars if we bought it from a supplier.”
This creates a way for some of the donated funds to go to items not covered by grants.
The dream is for the center to get bigger and better.
“We’re really hoping to do more activities and pick up people where it's getting to where they can’t drive to the center,” Hunter said. “We’ll be able to actually have a bus route. I would love to offer more activities — more fun stuff and we can do that since we are going to have the van.”
The group has gone out before to Wilson, Oklahoma to get the catfish and when Hunter asked where they should go in the new van — well Wilson better watch out.
“We’re just so blessed,” Hunter said while sprinting down the hall to help get lunch served.