MARSING — It's not uncommon for a restaurant to help out with a fundraiser every once in a while, but one restaurant in Marsing has gone way beyond answering that call: the people there are filling a deep need in rural Idaho.
The Sandbar Restaurant is dedicated to helping seniors, people with disabilities and veterans by providing services and support.
The Sandbar has a unique story: enrollment at Marsing Senior Center was declining and it was costly to keep the doors open. But still, people in Owyhee and Canyon counties needed to be served. So the community came up with an innovative model to help them live their fullest lives.
At the age of 95, Marsing resident Charlie Gebert just wants to be at home.
“I guess I'm just a tough old guy,” he added. “I'm in my home by myself. I get along just fine.”
He used to come to the Sandbar Restaurant in Marsing a lot more, but it's harder to get out of the house now because he can't drive himself. So Charlie gets Meals on Wheels delivered to his house.
“Very good program for seniors that can't get out,” Gebert said. “One of the best programs they've ever come up with.”
The food is prepared and packaged at the Sandbar Restaurant.
“Some of these people would not eat; they don’t have resources to buy food, they don’t have the physical ability to cook,” Sandbar volunteer Nina Collett told KTVB.
Meals on Wheels is one of the many programs the 501(c)(3) restaurant provides to their elderly friends in rural Owyhee County and parts of Canyon County.
"To go into these people’s homes and see their need and the smile on their face -- you might be the only person they see all week and sometimes all month. It’s pretty heart wrenching to see what they do need and to be able to provide part of what they need,” Collett said.
“There’s such a tremendous need,” said Luci Asumendi, Sandbar Restaurant Community Services Coordinator.
Open five days a week, seniors, people with disabilities and veterans can also order the daily special in house - whether or not they can afford the suggested five-dollar donation.
“We do what we can but it’s never really enough. We need all help we can get from volunteers, donations,” Collett said.
Volunteers are the life-line of the Sandbar’s services and the community has proven to be incredibly generous; just the other day farmers donated several bags of potatoes and onions!
Staff says Sandbar's mission depends on the restaurant being sustainable – since all the money goes to the services they provide.
“We need foot traffic in the restaurant because 100 percent of net proceeds goes right back into Meals on Wheels and into the restaurant, the congregate meals. So there's very little waste,” Asumendi said.
Not only do they provide fresh meals, they partner with a transportation company to get people around.. And collect and distributes medical equipment. Asumendi says it’s crucial they “stand in the gap” for families who need someone to check on their elderly family members every now and then.
“There is no other service other than Homedale and us to serve seniors in this area,” Collett said. “Our population for seniors is getting bigger every day.”
To keep seniors, people with disabilities, and our veterans in their homes as long as possible, the community had to think outside the box and step into the 21st century, as senior centers across the Treasure Valley are having to shut their doors or scale back their hours.
“Makes a huge difference when you leave seniors where they are,” Asumendi told KTVB. “Senior centers across the valley are struggling, and it's unfortunate. Some are only open two days a week or just a few hours a day. So if we can pick up the gap, that’s what we ought to be doing.”
There's a team of volunteers in the community who answer the call when seniors need a helping hand with chores or projects at home.
“We want to take our brand across the [Snake River]. That’s where the population is. We want everybody to know what we're doing and why we're doing it,” Asumendi told KTVB. “We hope it transforms not only seniors' lives but our community.
Learn more about Sandbar and how you can give back on the Sandbar website.