With pancakes and bacon cooking in the kitchen nearby, Rose Guilbeau leaned forward and gazed out the window.
“You can see the mountains, ocean and river,” she said. “This place looks really nice.”
On a recent Friday afternoon, Guilbeau enjoyed one of the first lunches served at the new Tyotkas Elder Center in Old Town Kenai. The 6,500-square-foot facility officially opened in March after about a year of construction.
The one-story structure includes many amenities. Visitors walk under a covered entrance through sliding glass doors. Expansive windows facing south toward Cook Inlet and the mouth of the Kenai River offer sweeping views of water and mountains. A large, two-way fireplace separating a gathering area and library creates a cozy atmosphere. Wide hallways and doorways make the facility wheelchair-friendly.
Guilbeau first came to Tyotkas last summer – her inaugural visit was June 26, her birthday – when Elders services were housed at the Fort Kenay building in Old Town.
An arts and crafts enthusiast, Guilbeau now visits Tyotkas every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. She enjoys meeting new people and was impressed when she saw the new building.
“It’s very nice,” Guilbeau said. “I really like it.”
The kitchen features walk-in coolers, commercial-grade appliances and a large dishwashing area separate from the storage and cooking areas.
For cooks James Coveyou and Carey Edwards, who prepare meals for dozens of Elders each day, the new facility offers ample space and quality equipment.
Edwards said a convection oven and commercial-grade mixer will allow her to make fresh bread, in-house, whereas she previously served store-bought bread. The kitchen also is good for baking homemade pies, she said, and the dishwashing area is spacious and easy to maintain.
“All the equipment is really beautiful,” Edwards said.
Coveyou, who on this afternoon prepared pancakes, scrambled eggs and other breakfast items, said it’s easier to cook in the new building than it was at Fort Kenay.
“At Fort Kenay it was a bit of a challenge,” Coveyou said. “It was almost like cooking on a campfire for 70 people all day.”
The building sits in the same location as the previous Elders center, which was demolished in 2014 thanks to a natural gas leak and subsequent structural report that revealed additional issues.
For Duke Minium, 62, the location is one of the best aspects of Tyotkas.
Minium, eating with his wife, Henia, said he enjoys exercising at the Dena’ina Wellness Center and walking to Tyotkas afterward for lunch.
“I’m real happy to be able to get in some exercise and then come over here,” he said.