Golden Diners program gets boost with Elgin partnership
By Tara García Mathewson
Bob and Kathy Bradford make their home in Willow Lakes Estates, a senior living community in Elgin. Kathy has used a walker since she broke her leg, and Bob has heart problems. She said their medical costs have gone through the roof — a not-so-pleasant reality in what Bob sarcastically calls their “golden years.”
The program offers a hot meal every weekday, saving the couple money on food and energy on cooking. It also gives them a chance to socialize with many of their neighbors, who make up 90 percent of those eating at the Alumni Room at Judson University, which is right up the road from them.
“When we first came here we didn’t know anybody,” Bob Bradford said. “Now we know a few people at every table.”
But the Bradfords haven’t been the only ones taking advantage of the free or low-cost meal option.
According to Salvation Army Maj. Ken Nicolai, the Golden Diners program went from serving 147,000 meals two years ago to 172,000 meals in the year that ended Sept. 30. For the first time in the program’s 40-year history, Nicolai had to consider the possibility of putting 87 seniors on a waiting list — a precedent he did not want to set.
By paying an outside vendor per meal for the food, Nicolai didn’t have much room to cut costs. So he started thinking about a major program overhaul.
Enter the city of Elgin.
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