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New, donated vans bring meals to seniors

New, donated vans bring meals to seniors

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - It's always exciting to get a new car, but for the Idaho Falls Senior Center, it's double the excitement. Two new vans were donated to the center, and that will impact dozens of seniors each day.

The center cooks and delivers about 200 meals per day to homebound seniors in the Idaho Falls area. On Thursdays and Fridays, workers prepare an extra 100 frozen meals for the weekend.

Monday, Rachel Barney delivered meals in a 2014 Toyota Sienna for the first time. She said it was scary because she was anxious about driving something so new. Although, it was not as scary as driving her old van. Among other problems, the brakes were going bad.

Problems are a common theme with the centers fleet of six old vans. One of those is a spare, and it gets plenty of use.

"Most of (the vans) are 10-12 years old and have 100,000 driving miles, which means they have 100,000 idle miles. We have to leave the vans going when we go in to deliver the meals to keep the oven hot," said Valisa Say, executive director for the Idaho Falls Senior Center.

The center has been fundraising for new vans since November. The William J. Maeck foundation stepped up and worked with Teton Toyota to get a deal on two brand-new vans. Maintenance won't be a problem with the new vans; it is covered for the first few years. That's important, because funding is tough when the meals are served at no charge.

"It's all by donation because you have to have money to operate. The cost of fuel and insurance and salaries and utilities and so on," said Jerry Colvin, a volunteer who also participates in events at the center.

"About 50 percent of our budget is covered either through Medicaid or the government or city or donations from seniors. The other 50 percent we have to do through fundraisers," said Say.

Sometimes the drivers are the only person a senior may see that day, and that means a lot.

"It means they can have a hot meal every day. (It means) somebody they can count on and look forward to seeing every single day," said Barney.

The Idaho Falls Senior Center is working towards getting three more vans. With funds they have raised and the trade in value of the two vans being replaced, the center is pretty close to getting its next one.

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