The Senior Center building is an unexpected “gift” back to the Pelican Rapids city. 

The senior center, with its location near parks, green space, the library and trailhead for the proposed Pelican to Maplewood State Park has been eyed as a multi-use building in the future. 

Also, the center is being considered for a modernized commercial kitchen, which could be rented to local food processors or caterers.  

 The “gift” caught the city council by surprise March 30. Council members weren’t expecting the Senior Club to so willingly return the structure to city management. 

Gloria Radtke, along with Gerald Grefsrud and Dotty Egge, made the proposal. They expressed that they wanted the building to continue to serve as a hub for the senior nutrition program and Meals on Wheels—but that the building be transferred to city management and ownership. 

“We didn’t expect this tonight,” said Councilman Curt Markgraf, who stressed the importance of the services provided at the senior center. “We were in the infancy of the discussion on the commercial kitchen.” 

By assuming the senior center, it essentially would create a new “department” for the city—including some staff involvement, maintenance, utility costs, and operations. Senior club president Radtke said annual operations costs are nearly $10,000. 

Presently, Nutrition Services Inc. (NSI) rents the serving kitchen from the Senior Club. NSI has tentatively agreed to continue the senior meals operation as it has, but the building would come under the city’s umbrella rather than the senior club. In calendar year 2020, about 10,358 meals were served out of the facility, noted Radtke. She is knowledgeable about the senior meal program, as she managed the Pelican site from about 2003-2006, and she continues to be active with the senior club.

To meet the requirements of a certified “commercial kitchen” the facility would require stainless steel fixtures, some new appliances and other features. 

The roof was replaced in 2006, and there is some new equipment that the city would acquire—including a commercial dishwasher and freezer. 

Dissolving the senior club, as it presently exists, would transfer all assets to the city, which includes cash savings and certificates of deposit. The club has money in savings, most of it a courtesy of a generous member who gifted money to the club, said Radtke. Even during the pandemic, the club has withdrawn little from savings. 

 The center is already functioning somewhat as a “community center,” as the building was rented for small family gatherings, reunions, graduations, birthdays, etc. The COVID pandemic shut down most of the rental activity over the past year, however. 

OAKS, (Organizing Acts of Kindness for Seniors) has been partnering with the senior club for a variety of programs and activities. Those programs could also continue at the senior club facility. Radtke describers OAKS as “the best asset Pelican Rapids has for the senior citizen population.” 

The senior club dates to 1974, when the idea took hold. There were more than 50 members when the club was chartered. In 1976 incorporation papers, it states that assets of the club be distributed to the city for non profit purposes, in the event the club is dissolved. 

Radtke said that, under city’s management, the facility would be somewhat comparable to Fergus Falls, where the club facility is owned by the city.