The staff of the La Comida lunch program in downtown Palo Alto found themselves with a dilemma Friday, Jan. 4 -- no electricity and dozens of seniors expecting a meal in three hours.
After a nearby transformer blew shortly after 8 a.m., cutting power to Avenidas senior center where the lunch program meets, La Comida staff went into brainstorming mode, according to manager Mary Ruth Batchelder.
There was no way to cancel and get word to the seniors, some of whom rely on the food as their main meal of the day. So staff decided to proceed, Batchelder said. Due to safety concerns, though, Avenidas didn't want to open the darkened center.
The solution? A BBQ in the just-reopened Cogswell Plaza next door, complete with an acoustic bluegrass band and line dancing. A few candles, flashlights and a gas stove helped as the staff prepared beans, salad and fresh fruit in the kitchen, to go with the BBQ chicken, she said.
Though temperatures hovered in the 50s, seniors took the change in stride, with at least one calling the al fresco dining "exciting."
"Quite fun," Betty Schneider, a regular, said of the spontaneous picnic.
Batchelder said the power had gone out only once before in her 10 years with the program. Friday's experience reassured her that her staff is prepared for anything, she said.
"When the next earthquake happens, we'll be able to have at least one meal here."