A new facility opened Thursday morning. And not only does it have a separate breakroom, but the area also includes stylish outdoor seating that would make a Brookside restaurant envious.
Meals on Wheels of Metro Tulsa hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate a $10.75 million facility that will triple the organization’s space, creating more room for office staff, more room for volunteer training sessions and, most importantly, more room for preparing meals.
The new dishwashing room alone is bigger than the old location’s entire kitchen, said Katie Oatsvall, the organization’s president and CEO.
“Just to have the bigger space will make a huge difference,” Oatsvall said.
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With construction finished, Meals on Wheels will move from a nondescript building in east Tulsa to a high-profile address near the busy intersection of 51st Street and Yale Avenue, where the new facility sits across the street from one of the city’s most popular recreation spots, LaFortune Park.
If that wasn’t enough to draw more attention to the organization, the architecture will make the new Meals on Wheels Hardesty Service Center difficult to miss with a glass front and colorful exterior panels.
“The location and design,” Oatsvall said, “is going to do more to increase our visibility than any advertising budget that a nonprofit could ever hope for.”
The new kitchen includes an 800-square-foot walk-in freezer next to an equally large walk-in refrigerator. Multiple ovens can cook 50 pounds of meat at a time while the kitchen staff will use 80-gallon kettles, 40-gallon skillets and shoulder-high stand mixers.
With construction funded partly by the Hardesty Family Foundation and the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, the larger building will help the group go from delivering 300,000 meals per year to more than 1 million per year, officials said.
At full capacity, Meals on Wheels will need 2,000 volunteers to deliver that much food, but the group currently has only 600 helpers, officials said.
The new building features several large classrooms for training new volunteers, who do much more than just deliver meals, Oatsvall said.
“We’re the eyes of the community,” she said. “We’re often the ones to recognize when clients need assistance, and we can make sure the right kind of help is offered.”
Coinciding with the ribbon-cutting, Meals on Wheels received a $50,000 grant from the American Electric Power Foundation, established by PSO’s parent company.
“With 28% of Oklahoma seniors facing food insecurity, the need is critical,” said Matthew Horeled, vice president of regulatory and finance for Public Service Company of Oklahoma and treasurer of the Meals on Wheels board of directors.