KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When diners go out to eat for KC Restaurant Week, they'll be helping one of the nation's most vulnerable populations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Don Bosco Centers are among the beneficiaries and will receive some of the proceeds from restaurant owners. While it includes a community center and an ESL school, it also provides for seniors and adults with disabilities.
"We have toiletries and necessities for these seniors," said Liz Zini, the director of the Don Bosco Community Center. "We home deliver their meals... but it's not just food, it's a wellness check."
The Don Bosco Senior Center has been closed since March, eliminating the one social environment many of the seniors had pre-pandemic.
The fitness center, pool table area and hallways are filled with coats and boxes. The dining room is now where employees pack lunches for Meals on Wheels.
"We want to cry. It's very sad. They are really sad. They miss this place," Cecilia Sierra said.
Sierra started working for the Don Bosco Centers in the early 1990's and served as an interpreter for the Hispanic senior community. She remembers knocking on their doors years ago to invite them to the senior center.
"I said, 'You're going to get Alzheimer's if you just sit here all day watching TV. Come over here, come to Don Bosco,'" Sierra said. "That's what gives you life, socializing. If you don't socialize, you're dead."
Today, she's retired, but she still finds a home with Don Bosco as a volunteer and a friend.
Although the building is closed, the work still goes on to connect seniors with utility assistance, food and more, which is why they want the community to support KC Restaurant Week.
"The more people can go out and support these restaurants, in turn, you're supporting Don Bosco," Zini said.
From Jan. 8 through Jan. 17, participating restaurants around the metro will offer specialty three-course meals for a set price.
Other beneficiaries include: the Visit KC Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association's Education Fund, which provides college scholarships, teaches teens how to cook and introduces them to the restaurant industry.
For seniors interested in receiving utility assistance, food or toiletries from Don Bosco, call MARC at 816-421-4980. The Don Bosco Senior Center also hosts the Harvesters mobile food distribution the second Friday of every month.