Adult Center Celebrates Christmas with First In-Person Meal in Nearly 2 Years

While life has more or less returned to normal for most aspects of daily life in Canby, the same cannot be said for the Canby Adult Center on the corner of South Ivy and 13th Avenue.

The center has continued to serve hundreds of area veterans, seniors and their pets each week through its Meals on Wheels program and local partner FIDO Food Bank, and some limited in-person programming and events have gradually returned.

But the center’s once vibrant activities calendar — anchored by the popular weekday dining service — has not yet been able to resume due to the continuing pandemic and the more vulnerable population that the nonprofit serves.

The center hosted about 125 people for its first in-person meal in nearly two years. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Then again, it’s Christmastime, and the center’s staff and board of directors decided it was time to make an exception.

And so, the Canby Adult Center opened its doors Tuesday, December 21, for a special holiday dinner — its first in-person meal in almost two years.

“Our dining room has been closed to in-person meals since March 13, 2020 — a day that will always stand out in my memory because it was also my birthday,” Director Kathy Robinson said with a chuckle.

Attendees donned Christmas sweaters, Santa hats and other festive attire. Photo by Tyler Francke.

About 125 local seniors and family members attended the festive event — which was divided into two seatings to keep the dining room at 50% capacity.

“It was absolutely amazing — so full of good cheer,” Robinson told the Current. “Reunions all around. Most of the faces were known to us, but we had some who were local members of the community that we didn’t know.”

Attendees donned Christmas sweaters and other gay apparel, Santa hats and reindeer antlers, and even holiday-themed masks to show off their festive spirit.

Adult Center Director Kathy Robinson and staff said it was a joy to see their clients’ smiles again. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Those in attendance included a group of five Canby High School grads who elected to turn the dinner into their own “mini-reunion” — as well as some folks who otherwise appeared to be in store for a much lonelier holiday.

“It’s hard to imagine, but we heard from at least a dozen people that that meal was their Christmas,” Robinson said. “You know, for whatever reason, their family is away or they don’t have family, so on the big day itself, they’ll be spending it at home by themselves. That was a really good reminder to us that it’s worth the effort to make an event like that happen.”

Head chef Hurley Baird and his team outdid themselves for the occasion, serving up a menu of prime rib, steamed asparagus and smashed potatoes with pepper confetti.

Head chef Hurley Baird, right, and his team have continued to serve hundreds of area seniors each week through the Meals on Wheels program. Photo by Tyler Francke.

“Hurley really, really enjoys and puts a lot of effort into presentation,” she said. “It was definitely a festive time, and it encouraged us to pull all of our decorations out and make it look nice for people. We had nothing but good comments.”

Canby Fire Division Chief Matt English, who is also a Canby Adult Center board member, and other firefighters were on hand to serve, as well as take temperatures and help ensure the proper Covid-19 precautions were in place.

While those who were able to attend certainly appreciated the return to some normalcy after more than 20 months of pandemic restrictions, perhaps none were more impacted by the event than the kitchen staff themselves.

Baird and his team outdid themselves with a meal of prime rib, asparagus and smashed potatoes with pepper confetti. Photo by Tyler Francke.

“While other members of our staff still have some interaction with the clients, the kitchen team haven’t had that satisfaction in almost two years,” Robinson said. “Hurley, he said to me at the end, ‘Man, that was a great reminder of why I love my job. I’ve really, really missed this.’ So, it was a boost in the arm for everybody.”

The adult center does hope to reopen the dining room in the new year, if on a more limited schedule. Covid-19 remains a challenge, but the bigger issue is providing staffing for an in-person meal service while continuing a Meals on Wheels program that is far larger than it was before the pandemic.

“We’ve got some logistics to figure out,” Robinson admitted. “But I’m hopeful that by spring, we’ve got people coming in for an in-person meal, once a week or so at least.”

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