The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

New downtown home for Green Square Meals, Witwer meals program being readied for late February

In Floods, Scott Olson on January 23, 2009 at 11:58 am

After some starts and stops, work is well underway on converting a downtown building into the home of Green Square Meals and a temporary home for the Witwer Senior Center’s meals program.

The Ecumenical Center, which provides space for a group of helping services agencies and others, also is moving into the building at 601/605 Second Ave. SE.

Scott Olson, who is on the Ecumenical Center’s board of directors, reported on Friday that the center is readying to take up residence in the 601 side of the building in mid-February.

Olson said the all-volunteer Green Square Meals, which cooks and serves an evening meal Monday through Friday for the needy, is planning on serving its first meal in the new kitchen and dining area on the 605 side of the building on Feb. 23.

Meanwhile, Myrt Bowers, director of the Witwer Senior Center, on Friday said her operation is planning on cooking and serving its first lunch in the building on Saturday, Feb. 21.

The Witwer operation will prepare and serve lunch seven days a week from the site and also prepare lunches to deliver to homes in Linn County and at a meals site in Lisbon.

In addition, Bowers said she is making plans to secure funding so that the Witwer Senior Center can serve a daily breakfast at the site. It might take five to six months to secure the funds, she said.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Bowers said. “… I think we’re going to be able to fill a need, and I’m very excited about that.”

The Witwer Senior Center’s previous home in the Witwer Building downtown was damaged in the June flood and the center does not have plans to return there.

Bowers estimated the center’s meals operation could remain at the new spot at 605 Second Ave. SE for three to five years. The long-term plan is for the center to become an integral part of a new community and recreation center. That idea is one of the goals of  the community’s Fifteen in 5 initiative.

Like the senior center, Green Square Meals has been operating at a temporary site since the June flood. The program had operated out of the city’s Greene Square Park building for years, but the City Council in March of 2007 told the meals program to move so the city could demolish the building. The building, which took in a little water in the June flood, is empty and still standing.

Olson, a commercial Realtor, played a central role in arranging the sale of a building that formerly housed the Ecumenical Center’s offices to provide money to help purchase the 601/605 Second Ave. SE building, in which he had an ownership interest. Olson also has played a role with others in rounding up donations of materials and labor for the Second Avenue building’s renovation.

Green Square Meals will operate from the site for $1 a year.

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