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Pay It Forward: Madison County Senior Activity Center

Meals on Wheels
Todd Kunz
The Meals on Wheels program for the Madison County Senior Activity Center in Rexburg, Idaho.

REXBURG, Idaho (KXPI/KIFI) - The current economy is expensive, especially if for you a senior on a fixed income. There is the need for food, but if the person is isolated or homebound as a senior, there is also a need for contact and communication with the outside world. News anchor Todd Kunz found a place with volunteers who make it happen. Time to Pay It Forward.

"The people that we serve have very limited budgets and they have limited access to food. So what we provide is crucial and the need just keeps growing," said Melissa Hope, the kitchen and facility manager of the Madison County Senior Activity Center in Rexburg.

That's what they do here, and do it well. They provide food for seniors, both in-house and with the Meals on Wheels program. It currently has two routes, a city route of 46 stops, and a county route with 23.

The volunteers form an assembly line, getting the cooked meals ready to be packed hot, loaded, and off to be delivered to the homes of seniors.

"A lot of these people are isolated and we are the only people that they see sometimes on a daily basis," said Hope. She has been the manager of the kitchen at the senior center for a little more than a year. In October 2023, she was promoted over the entire facility.

They do more than just cook delicious, healthy food. The facility is also an activity center. They recently added an exercise room for the seniors to stay fit. And speaking of fit, Fit and Fall Prevention classes are taught here. It is a fun, social, healthy environment.

"I love it because the people that come here every day and that I work with, the majority of them are volunteers. When you're a volunteer, you're giving. Giving is love. And they come in here with the best attitudes to serve. And those are my coworkers," said Hope.

Twelve members sit on the board. Beyond that, Hope emphasizes the support from the surrounding community, whether it be donations from area businesses or service from missionaries, youth groups, or their regular helpers.

"We love our volunteers." Volunteers like Cheryl Abbott. She said she does it in honor of her husband who passed away a year and a half ago.

"When I was offered the chance to volunteer here, I jumped on it. And we serve people who can't do it for themselves. We serve vets and a lot of people that my husband would have loved to have served. And it gives me a sense of purpose," said Abbott. 

"I'm coming once a week and baking cookies. And it's fun. A lot of wonderful people here," said Ardis Leavitt, who is one of the cooks. She makes a mean cookie from what I'm told.

Or there is Monta Gardner. She is also wrapping up her culinary degree. Her focus is on the seniors.

"Be a friend to them. And I've just really grown to love serving the people," said Gardner.

What do you says we serve up a little Pay It Forward.

"Melissa, how's it going?" said a man entering the kitchen.

"Good. How are you?" replied Hope.

"Good. I'm here to interrupt you for just a second. My name is Jake (Baggaley). I'm from Mountain American Credit Union. And we heard everything you guys are doing for the community at the senior center. Unbelievable. Getting all the seniors together, making sure nobody's forgotten. The Meals on Wheels. What you guys do for the community is just completely outstanding. And so we would like to pay it forward to you guys with $500 to go toward your cause," he said, pulling cash out of an envelope.

"Thank you so much. Thank you so very much. Can I give you a hug?" asked Hope.

"Of course," said Baggaley.

"Thank you for appreciating and noticing," said Hope.

"Yeah," said Baggaley.

"This will be put to great use," said Hope.

"We're so excited for you guys. Appreciate all you are going to do," said Baggaley.

"Thank you," said Hope.

The Madison County Senior Activity Center functions solely off of grants and donations. Hope said they would like to expand some day. She said the demand is increasing and they need a new van, so they can add an additional route. And, of course, they are always looking for volunteers to spend a little time.

The center has a Facebook page here.

"Pay It Forward" stories air the second Wednesday of every month. If you know of a nonprofit organization or someone who deserves to be recognized for their contributions to the area, click on "News" then "Pay It Forward" under the menu stack at the top left of our homepage. Fill out the submission form, or send an email to news anchor Todd Kunz at

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Todd Kunz

Todd is an anchor for Local News 8.


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