Senior center help

The senior center is looking for volunteers to help with its meal program.

New chef/manager implemented to improve food standards, but needs more help

It’s a one-man show at the Healdsburg Senior Center with the Sonoma County Council on Aging’s (COA) meal service program, and volunteers are greatly needed in order to get the program back on its feet following a chef/manager transition.

COA organizes a Monday through Thursday meal and a Friday brunch with eggs cooked any style and a choice of bacon or sausage.

The more popular item has been the bistro style option, which typically provided five different meal options such as eggs Benedict or huevos rancheros. However, that option has since been eliminated — a single chef cannot cook five different meal options and there just aren’t enough cooks in the kitchen. 

“Bistro was a model that we were doing before Emily Garzini (the new chef/manager) was here but it wasn’t working out with the previous manager because she didn’t meet health inspection code,” explained Kim Nguyen, a a COA food program manager who helps out in Healdsburg when she can. “Once we brought Emily in she cleaned everything out and started over from what was kind of a mess.”

When Garzini, a nutritionist and the new chef/manager, came on board to freshen and clean things up to code a few of the volunteers left along with the previous chef/manager during the transition.

While her clean up has passed the code with flying colors now Garzini is doing all of the food program tasks herself.

She has to not only prepare and plate the meals, but also take sign-ins and cash and fill drinks and take orders. 

“There are a few different jobs in the kitchen and right now Emily is doing all of them,” Nguyen said. “We’ve had a shortage for a few months now so it has been difficult for us to have more than one option for the dining for the seniors.”

Nguyen said that even just having one or two consistent volunteers would help tremendously.

“Right now Emily will run out there, get their orders then run back into the kitchen, make it and then do the same things with the dishes and it is a constant cycle of, ‘I hope we don’t get too many people at once,’” Nguyen explained.

Volunteer positions needed include dishwasher and front of house worker.

“Everybody loves the idea of being the front of house person, it is a fun job and dishwasher doesn’t sound desirable but the need is there,” said Anna Grant, the senior center’s active adult and senior services supervisor. “And in Healdsburg people want to help. When we ran the emergency shelter we had people sign up for every single shift including two in the morning wiping down toilets without hesitation, so we’d love to see that same response spread and this is an immediate need that we have.”

Nguyen said the work times are flexible and you don’t have to have any previous experience.

While volunteers would be welcome to work from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the lunch rush starts at 11 a.m. and any amount of time folks can give would be appreciated.

She said if somebody just wanted to come and help set the table and lay out silverware for 20 minutes then event that would be a big help.

“We just need enthusiasm and people who want to help and we can do the rest,” Nguyen said.

She added that if they are able to get more help and more folks start coming for the meals then they might be able to add more meal options.

“We do want to see this place thrive,” Nguyen said.

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