CASA GRANDE — U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran stopped by to package and deliver a few meals at a new kitchen for the Meals on Wheels program in Pinal County.
The kitchen is located in an old Wendy’s restaurant at the closed outlet mall on Jimmie Kerr Boulevard. The building and part of the parking lot surrounding it was donated by a California man to the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens Area Agency on Aging so the organization could build a central kitchen to cook and serve its Meals on Wheels and congregate meals at the city senior centers in Eloy, Florence and Coolidge.
The organization started work on renovating the building to meet its needs about a year and a half ago with the help of a $172,000 grant from the Arizona Department of Economic Security, said Victor Gomez, the vice president of development for PGCSC.
The council had been using a contractor out of Tucson to help provide meals for both programs, said Ana Medina, the chief operating officer of Meals on Wheels of Central Arizona. The pandemic slowed the project down some, but the organization has been slowly opening the kitchen to use since June or July of last year and there are already plans to expand the kitchen to include more refrigerator and freezer space.
A grand opening for the new kitchen is planned for May, Gomez said.
“I’ve been to a lot of places like this, but I’ve never seen something at this scale,” O’Halleran said before presenting a special certificate of congressional recognition to the organization for the work it does serving meals to local seniors.
Gomez gave O’Halleran, Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland and Eloy Mayor Micah Powell a quick tour before all three tried their hand at sealing a couple of meal trays for next week’s meals.
O’Halleran spoke briefly with PinalCentral before leaving to help deliver meals to local seniors with Meals on Wheels volunteers.
He said that while President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan does not specifically earmark funds for the widening of Interstate 10 in Pinal County, he does believe that some of the money set aside for significant transportation projects may make its way to the I-10 widening project.
O’Halleran also said he expects the state, county and local governments will see some funding from the bill to help with water projects, such as replacing aging water lines within city limits.
Congress is also keeping an eye on making sure that COVID-19 relief and stimulus funds are making their way to rural and local governments, he said. The past few bills related to stimulus funds and future bills are being written to make sure that some funding goes directly to local governments as well as county and state governments.