Regulars to the Silver Café she runs at Liberty Lake City Hall surprised Suzi Walden in early February for her birthday with a hat, cake, cards and ice cream.
In the March Fountain: Creating community over lunch
2/27/2013 2:04:36 PM
The Fountain is a special section about and for Liberty Lake seniors
By Sarah Robertson
The Liberty Lake City Hall Silver Café crowd poses in costume during a special "Western Days" event last summer.
Even after feeding an extra-large lunch crowd, Suzi Walden appears just as chipper as she did that morning. A visitor would hardly know her regular crowd of 45 turned into about 70 people on this day.
Walden is the meal site manager for Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels' Silver Café in Liberty Lake as well as the Valley Senior Center in Spokane Valley.
Since 2004, Walden has worked to create a friendly gathering place for seniors to eat a healthy lunch and connect with one another. Her rule? No one stands in line for food. She makes sure everyone is seated and then she and her volunteers serve their "guests"-just like a restaurant. In Walden's opinion, "they deserve it."
Originally hired as a meal site manager for the Valley Senior Center, Walden splits her time with the Valley and Liberty Lake meal sites. The Silver Café meal sites are operated by Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels. The program is meant to provide a healthy meal for seniors as well as encouraging community and social interaction.
Walden has lived in Liberty Lake just about as long as she has been the meal site manager. She applied for the position after seeing an advertisement in The Splash. Walden's journey to Liberty Lake started in Illinois, made stops in Durango, Colo., and Bend, Ore., and then landed here after her daughter settled in the area.
Cheryl Seyfert's Dutch apple pie (Seyfert is a volunteer at the Liberty Lake meal site)
Watching "The Voice' (because she likes watching Blake Shelton)
Things to do before she dies
Take more cruises and share her faith
Most embarrassing moment
Tripping over a curb while strapped to a bass drum during her marching band days back in high school
Hay J's Bistro
DINE AT THE SILVER CAFÉ
Silver Café meal sites are open to all seniors 60 years of age and older. Greater Spokane County Meals on Wheels operates 15 meal sites throughout Spokane County, including Mondays and Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. at Liberty Lake City Hall. Call 924-6976 for a current listing of sites and times.
Her professional experience is just as varied. Walden spent much of her career in public relations and producing and directing festivals - including hydroplane races and Christmas light displays - in various parts of the country. Her first job after moving here was at Templin's Resort in Post Falls.
From the way Walden's face becomes animated as she talks about her meal sites, one might guess this is her favorite job. She talks about the sense of community it gives her and the sense of community she in turn strives to create every day.
Or, as she puts it, "my purpose is to get people to smile. A smile can take away so much. You have no idea what people are coming in with."
Though she warns, "I try not to be a grumpy-looking person, but if I'm concentrating …"
Walden's face breaks into an infectious smile. Her advice: "Try to smile at people."
Just as quickly, her demeanor changes as she voices her other reason for becoming a site manager.
"A lot of people forget about seniors," she says.
For Christmas, Walden received a plaque with the words, "Faith, Family, Friends." She said her actions and decisions are guided by this phrase. To her, these are the three most important things in life and what she is most grateful for. She keeps this phrase in mind every day, and she considers all the seniors she works with her friends.
For Walden, her job is easy because seniors are "appreciative of the small things." Her favorite parts of the job are making sure her seniors are fed and working with the volunteers. It's her goal to make sure that each volunteer can take over and carry on in case something was to happen to her. She is very proud that they all know what to do.
Much of Walden's spare time is also spent serving others. She is very involved in her church, Real Life Ministries in Post Falls. She helps with coffee service, ushering and serving communion to fellow parishioners. On the weekends, you can find her gardening, walking her Bijon-Shitzu, Winston, and getting together with the ladies of the Liberty Lake Red Hat Society. She also enjoys cooking and water aerobics.
She treasures the time she can spend with family, too, and especially her grandchildren, who are now teenagers and going off to college. While Walden moved to the Inland Northwest to be with her family, they are beginning to spread out around the country. Her children and grandchildren live throughout the West and Midwest, giving Walden many opportunities to travel the country visiting family and friends. She is looking forward to the birth of her third great-grandchild this summer.
If she wasn't busy at the Liberty Lake and Valley Senior Center meals sites, Walden would love to be enjoying a cruise somewhere sunny, especially this time of year. She really enjoys Mexico and the Caribbean, but she's not too particular as long as there is sunshine involved. Someday, she'd love to cruise to Alaska.
Walden can be located at the Liberty Lake City Hall meal site on Monday and Wednesday (moving soon to Talon Hills Senior Apartments) and the Valley Senior Center on Tuesday and Thursdays. Lunch is served at 11:30 a.m. at both sites.