Tom Ross' column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs There's a hot new restaurant on Lincoln Avenue where the enchilada platter is a bargain and all the girls are sassy.
"I have a hell of a good time. Do you know why?" Ann Miller asked during lunch Monday. "I get away with all kinds of things because they don't dare hit me. I'm too old."
Miller, 87, was among almost 50 diners who enjoyed the first meal served by the Routt County Council on Aging at the city's new Community Center.
"We will certainly enjoy this," Council on Aging Program Director Shelley Orrell told the gathering. "This is our home now."
Senior LouAnn Hellmers agreed.
"We have a beautiful new building," she said. "I like this building because I don't like stairs."
The new lunch joint has a fixed menu, and once the tasty and nutritious food is gone, it's gone. So, it's not a bad idea to call your reservation in two days ahead at 879-0633.
The "restaurant" only serves every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But seniors pay just $2.50, and the rest of us pay a mere $5. Often, that price includes entertainment.
Don Livengood pulled double duty Monday. He drives the senior citizens van that collects people from across town four days a week and delivers them to the community center.
All winter, Livengood delivered his passengers to the temporary meal center at the Celebrity Resorts Steamboat Springs Hilltop. At lunch Monday, he stepped to the microphone in an all-black cowboy outfit and began strumming the chords to the Kris Kristofferson classic, "Why Me Lord," and singing in a clear tenor voice.
"This is my ministry," Livengood said. "I don't have my own ministry any more, but I take care of all my little angels."
Orrell said the city deserves credit for taking care of the seniors and finding them a temporary meal center at the Hilltop while the new building was under construction.
City Councilman Steve Ivancie dropped by the new Community Center during the lunch hour and was quick to say that the new facility will serve the entire community. In addition to providing a home for the American Legion, it will host many community meetings and parties.
"Our community deserves a facility like this," Ivancie said. "It's close to the transit center - it will enhance the community center, and the community center will enhance the transit center."
Orrell and Chef Peggy Dunning devoted their entire Easter weekend to making the kitchen ready for meal service.
"We had Easter dinner together - nachos," Orrell said.
Dunning has been cooking for the seniors for seven years and prides herself on preparing a different entree that meets nutritional guidelines every day of the month.
Looking ahead to next month, the menu calls for spinach lasagna, tossed salad, garlic bread, fruit Jell-O and birthday cake with ice cream on April Fool's Day. I may hold out for April 10, when Peggy is serving roast beef with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, spinach and ambrosia fruit salad.
She clearly is devoted to her customers.
"The seniors are very dear to me," Dunning said. "They even let me blow off steam. I lost my husband (Ben) about four years ago, and because most of them have lost a spouse, they were able to give me the support I needed."
Grab a seat at one of the communal tables, and you immediately grasp that that seniors from across the country have come to Steamboat to be closer to their adult children.
Mario Profeta, who was a supervisor for a women's shoe company in New Jersey for many years, now lives with his daughter.
"I come here three or four days a week," he said.
Bob Carl, who owned a Hallmark card shop for 19 years, moved here from the California desert. The meal program is a chance for him to be with friends, he said.
Bob's son Dana, a Steamboat building contractor, said his father made an easy transition to Steamboat life in spite of the long winters.
"He doesn't sit still, thank goodness," Dana Carl said. "He fit right in, and he doesn't complain about anything. That's a good feeling."
Spend a little more time at the senior luncheons, and you realize they define a nearly invisible community within our larger community.
They may be in the background, but the seniors like to party, or at least one of them does.
Miller is anticipating the first big shindig at the new Community Center.
"I'm looking forward to a wedding," she said. "Forget the dance."
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