On the morning of Feb. 1, The Center Manager Andrew Davidson and Nutrition Food Director/Cook Candace Schaefer were all smiles looking over a finalized menu.
Homemade chicken fried chicken steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, California blend vegetables, rolls and milk. It’s what on tap for Valentine’s Day lunch at noon on Feb. 14. Those and red velvet cupcakes with buttercream frosting for dessert will be ready. The latter rarely make the cut, but with Valentine’s and all, it made sense.
“It’s not on the menu often,” Schaefer said, with a smile. “But we were talking. It’s just another holiday that comes around, but anybody is welcome to come and eat. You don’t have to have a special someone to just enjoy a good meal and company.”
The Center, 124 E. 12th St., has been through quite a bit of change lately. The facility dropped ‘senior’ from its name in an attempt to diversify its users and make it a place open to people of all ages. It also saw Davidson take over as manager on Dec. 5, 2018. The former Center volunteer said he’s excited about many of the changes in store for 2019, but thought bringing back the annual Valentine’s Day luncheon fit in perfectly with attracting more people to the downtown Schuyler staple.
“We’re trying to invite as many couples to come as possible, but we would love single people to come out as well,” Davidson said. “This really is a meal open to all.”
Anyone 60 and older can eat for a suggested contribution of $4.25, while those younger can for a fixed price of $7.75. It’s not just about food, though. The Center will be decked out in roses and prizes will be given out to the oldest and youngest couples.
Then there’s the 25-15-10 raffle. It’s modeled after the 50/50 concept, however, works a little bit differently. Fifty percent of all dollar donations raised will go toward helping The Center with operation costs, while three winners will take home 25, 15 and 10 percent of the remaining pot, respectively.
Attendees will also have a shot at winning a bus trip to WinnaVegas Casino and gift cards to area businesses, like Didier’s Grocery.
“So it should be a lot of fun,” Davidson said, noting free bingo with prizes was added on to a busy event schedule during the holiday lunch.
Fun is the vibe those at The Center go for on a daily basis. On Feb. 1, more than a dozen residents were on hand visiting among themselves while enjoying coffee and homemade cinnamon rolls. Jackson and Schaefer went table to table chatting with their guests before settling down at one with a local women’s group.
The two Center employees and the group spent close to a half an hour debating meals to put on the coming menu, laughing and chatting along the way. For Schaefer, those interactions are a big part of why she loves her job.
“This is perfect,” she said, with a big smile. “I love to cook, I love menu planning, I just love visiting with the folks and seeing what they like. It’s always a challenge every day to get everybody what they want, but it’s a great atmosphere. We have a great community here between the regulars who come and others.”
Mildred Salak was among the group going over planned menus that morning. She praised Davidson and Schaefer for their efforts, noting her great appreciation to Schaefer when it comes to what she called a tough gig.
“Candy does a beautiful job working with a variety of people and trying to please everyone in a senior center. It’s not an easy job,” she assured. “But, she’s always willing to work with the public and does it extremely well.”
Davidson said the Valentine’s Day luncheon has historically been popular, however, he is hoping he can get dozens of people to come to check out the facility that day and beyond. Even if people aren’t necessarily interested in what it has to offer, he said at the very least those who decide to come might potentially help out a fellow resident in need of a friend.
“We want to make sure our older population has access to good food and companionship and not just staying at home,” Davidson said. “So come out and meet some new people. That’s what this is about.”
Salak said she’s hope Colfax County residents will turn out in droves.
“I would love to see more people come out, especially on Valentine’s Day,” she said. “Why not?”
Those interested in attending the Valentine Day’s luncheon are asked to call ahead of time. The Center can be reached at 402-352-5009.
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There has been an abundance of cold, overcast days since the Schuyler Solar Farm’s December 2018 launch, but that hasn’t prevented the 500-panel system from doing its job.
“I’ve really been pleasantly surprised that it produces kilowatt hours, even on some of these cloudy and cold days where the sun has been so low,” said Jim McGowen, superintendent of the Schuyler Department of Utilities. “It (the hours) hasn’t been humongous, but you would think that there might not be any on those kinds of days.”
Since going live Dec. 20, 2018, the farm has produced in excess of 53,600-kilowatt hours during an approximately 40-day stretch, McGowen said.
“We will know a lot more about the production of (kilowatt-hours) and kilowatt demand by this time next year,” he said, through an email. “This is why we have chosen to operate the system for in-house use (only) during the first year, in effect reducing the cost of operations of the public water system in Schuyler.”
The solar farm, located on a 33-acre plot of land located along east 16th Street, is home to two water wells that the city uses for various town water uses. The wells are now being operated through the solar panel system, he said.
After looking at data compiled between January of this year and January 2020, McGowen said he and other officials will assess the community’s interest in Green Energy and potentially buying into portions of the field.
If the interest is high, it’s possible the farm could expand to 1,000 panels – doubling its current 500-kilowatt output.
“What it will really boil down to in the future is, we have to see what kind of general interest we have and maybe send out a flyer and see what it is,” he said of gauging interest. “We also (have to see) what kind of pricing we can do to have additional (panels), or we may just sell some (panels) based off of what we have.”
The project was completed by South Dakota-based GenPro Energy Solutions for approximately $750,000 budgeted through the Department of Utilities – a budget independent from the city. The rate of return on the department’s investment will take several years, however, McGowen said that the upfront expense is worth it in the long run as it’s serving as a viable supplement to nonrenewable power sources.
Schuyler Mayor Jon Knutson praised McGowen and his team for working on the project, noting he believes it will benefit the community.
"Jim McGowen and the board are always forward thinking ... They do a nice job," he said. "I'm certainly a believer in green energy ... We will see how it works out. If it does like it's supposed to do, we will probably add on to the solar field we have."
McGowen noted that other communities like Fremont, Lincoln, Central City, Aurora and Lexington have all benefited from going Green by constructing community solar farms.
Upkeep of the farm has been relatively simple, he said, noting that one DU employee visits the grounds daily to monitor voltage and meter readings.
“(And) we have five to six guys who all have to know how to handle an outage, what to do, what switches to open and close if there is an outing,” he said.
While this first year of operation will exclusively benefit the Department of Utilities, the ultimate goal certainly is to provide a renewable energy option to the department’s approximately 2,500 customers.
“If we could put up another 500 (panels) that would be great, but we have to know that people are interested in renewable energy, and they have to be part of Schuyler,” he said. “Because that is who we are serving, so they should be the ones that want to buy into it and benefit from it.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at email@example.com.