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Pandemic Picnic Thanks Pandemic Donors
Sharon Grosvenor said she got picnic bag to take home to her husband Ray who would have liked to attended but is avoiding crowds because he has asthma.
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Friday, September 11, 2020


In normal times The Senior Connection would fete donors with a buffet of barbecued ribs, salmon and chicken served up inside its building in Hailey.

But, since times are anything but normal this summer, the staff got creative. They cooked up K-bob-a-ques of honey garlic chicken and pepper and onion skewers, along with Roasted Corn Salad and Sicilian ratatouille made with eggplant from Dick and Melinda Springs’ “Giving Garden” near Gannett.

They augmented those with cheddar cheese slices rubbed with espresso and lavender served on homemade sesame seed crackers, and strawberry rhubarb squares and Cappuccino brownie bites.

Ramona Duke and Jovita Pina lay out the picnic bags emblazoned with The Senior Connection’s name.

Then they packaged each in plastic containers, placed them in picnic bags and wheeled them over to Roberta McKercher Park where they handed them out to patrons spaced out on the lawn in socially distanced pods.

“It’s not the most eco-friendly, but we wanted you to be safe,” The Connection’s Executive Director Teresa Beahen Lipman told the picnickers.

Sharon Grosvenor didn’t mind.

“It beats sitting at home talking to the dog,” she said as she toasted her pod neighbors Shirley and Terri Moore with her wine.

Dede Huish eats a K-bob-a-que accented with Argentinian Chimichurri and Catalonian Romesco sauce made with tomatoes, roasted peppers and almonds.

Grosvenor said she and her husband Ray have mostly been sitting at home since the pandemic began, with the exception of a few short road trips to places like Muldoon and a couple ATV rides.

“We had to cancel a trip to Montana to visit with friends, but we’ve hung in there.  I started fitness class when they restarted it at The Senior Connection. I need it for my balance. And it’s nice to sit with friends afterwards for about 10 minutes.”

Hanna Bigelow was also happy to enjoy the company of others. She and her sister have long had a second home in Sun Valley for periodic family visits. When the pandemic hit, the former Princeton University finance manager bought a permanent home here.

“I feel safer here than in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. And I’ve met a lot of wonderful people,” she said as she listened to 1960s and ‘70s pop songs served up by singer/guitar player Rick Hoel.

Karen Lukes took wine and beer to the pods so picnickers didn’t have to concentrate at the bar. But, she said, she was unable to entertain the audience because getting together to rehearse would have been too difficult during COVID.

The Connection’s Board President Michael Beck said that The Senior Connection received “incredible” financial support from the community when the COVID pandemic forced seniors to shelter in place.

That support helped The Connection grow the number of meals it served 420 percent and retain 100 percent of its staff, said Associate Director Jovita Pina.

In fact, The Senior Connection which served 92,000 meals during 2019, had served 84,000 by July of this year and that’s expected to double by the end of the year. Each meal costs more to provide because it’s more expensive to serve each individually, whether curbside or by delivery, than cafeteria style, added Lipman.

“We are better together,” added Lipman, recounting how Don Cunningham and others had written a reopening plan that is “second to none” after looking at what some 10,000 centers across the country proposed to do.

About 116 picnickers showed up for the donor picnic.

“Because of you, we get to provide nutrient-rich meals and social connectedness.”

Lipman praised Dick and Melinda Springs, Mardi Shepard and Peggy Grove for transforming two acres of the Springs’ ranch into a garden where they’re growing produce for The Connection.

“I honestly believe it’s healing our elders,” she said.

Shepherd noted how they had scrambled Monday to cover everything in the face of 35 mile per hour winds and the threat of frost. Melinda Springs noted the fun of watching bite-sized pieces of potatoes taken from potatoes that had sprouted grow into new potatoes.

“It was a lot of effort and we got a late start so we were racing, but it saved us,” she said, noting how it gave them a project to keep them busy during the pandemic. “We grew everything from seed except the eggplant and we had a ball. None of us had done this before and it was amazing. And Mardi insisted on growing rutabaga—I’m sure Brian Ahern will find a way to use it that’s delicious.”

 “It’s great we could give Teresa some sort of support,” added Dick Springs. “It’s just a drop in the bucket as far as their food needs. But, hopefully, it will inspire others to at least grow food for themselves.”

Monies given The Connection have also provided more than 3,000 rides to and from the center during the past year, monthly field trips to Redfish Lake and other places and $26,000 in homecare scholarships to give family caregivers a respite, noted Pina.

A yard sale organized by Marie Gallo, Ben Frank and Maureen Turzian recently raised $1,500. And The  Connection hopes to raise $200,000 more at its annual Cocktails for a Cause fundraiser which will be offered virtually and in people’s private homes on Oct. 14.

The annual Festival of Trees on Dec. 11.

Beck noted that The Connection will celebrate 50 years of providing programs and services to seniors in 2021, thanks to the visionaries who started it in 1971.

“And we want to be here another 50 years,” he added.


Maureen Turzian, who drives from her home in Picabo to volunteer nearly daily in The Senior Connection kitchen, was named Volunteer of the Year for the Hailey Senior Connection. Kathy Brett was named Volunteer of the Year for the Carey Senior Connection.



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