With a thud and a few laughs, the Mizell Center took a major step forward Monday morning into a future that will see it better able to serve the thousands that pass through its doors each year.
Driving the news: At a groundbreaking of sorts just before 10 a.m., Mizell Board President Brian Wachs and Director of Nutrition Services Laura Castillo each lifted a sledgehammer, breaking through two panels of sheetrock placed against the facility’s kitchen wall. The moment signified that construction of an expanded kitchen will soon begin.
- “We don’t know exactly when construction will start, but we expect it will be within a few weeks,” said Mizell Executive Director Wes Winter. “This will serve as a symbolic groundbreaking.”
Looking back: The idea to expand the kitchen – from 642 square feet to 1,776 square feet – came to life in 2019. But in March 2020, like much of the world, it “came to a screeching halt,” Winter told invited guests in the adjacent nutrition center.
- A capital campaign started in April of this year was recently completed, with all $1.3 million raised, including some funds from the city’s Measure J tax.
Why it matters: The portion of the Mizell Center that contains the kitchen was constructed in 1951 and once housed Palm Springs Fire Station 2. At the time, the kitchen was large enough to meet the needs of firefighters who stayed there. Now, the needs of seniors who depend on the kitchen are far greater than when the center opened in 1991.
- Every day there are not only 60 to 80 people who come to Mizell for meals prepared in the kitchen, but 675 meals are also prepared for distribution via the Meals on Wheels program.
- During Covid, that number increased to 800, Winter said, adding, “That’s when it hit us – this doesn’t work.”
Going forward: After construction is finished (hopefully by Spring 2023), the new kitchen will more than double the current meal preparation capacity and should allow for kitchen staff to expand from six to 12. Along with the kitchen, Winter said, a locker room for that staff will be built as well as storage space.
- Architect Chris Mills, who designed the center’s 1991 expansion, has been brought back to to reimagine the space.