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Provo Senior Cooking Lunch For Neighbors During Coronavirus Outbreak

PROVO, Utah — Seniors in Utah and across the country have been urged to stay at home during the novel coronavirus outbreak. That separation can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness for some, but one Provo man is treating his neighbors to a daily dish to help keep their spirits up.

“I just tell people, give me anything you’ve got and I’ll make something out of it,” said Tim Torkildson, who goes by “Tork.”

He finds cooking therapeutic and right now, he’s getting plenty of therapy and helping his neighbors at Valley Villa Senior Housing in Provo.

“I made a commitment that I’m going to cook every day until this emergency or crisis is over,” he said.

It’s his way of helping promote social distancing to keep his neighbors safe.

“I want to discourage people from going out,” Torkildson said. “I’d like to help people stay in the building. And I think one way to do that is to offer them a meal.”

Torkildson is a retired circus clown, which helps explain the rainbow suspenders and colorful tie he wore and his passion for entertaining the people around him.

“He cooks almost every day,” said neighbor Joyce Baggerly.

Torkildson said he and his wife had eight children and he learned to cook quickly and cheaply for a crowd.

KSL’s crew kept its distance and stayed outside to practice good social distancing and avoid sharing any germs with the residents. So, Torkildson gave them a virtual tour of his kitchen with some cell phone video.

Many of Torkildson’s neighbors have generously donated food items from their pantries. He cooks it up and then serves it out the front door of his apartment in the afternoon.

“I try and make it nourishing and interesting,” he said. He enjoys mixing in the culinary influences of places he has lived, like Thailand and Mexico.

On Tuesday, he cooked up an Irish feast of corned beef and cabbage in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Baggerly stopped by to donate a couple of cans of food for the effort. She said she appreciates his cooking because she does not like to cook.

With the self-isolation precautions residents were taking to avoid the coronavirus, the daily meals are an even greater asset.

“Now, we get the food from the front door of his apartment because we can’t go off into our big room where we usually sat as a group and talked,“ she said.

Keeping space from other residents is awkward, she said. But everyone is making sure it’s working out.

“We’ve been through a lot. The people in this building our old,” she said with a chuckle. “We’ve been through a lot.”

Right now, they are helping each other. On Monday, Baggerly ran several errands around town for a friend.

“I’ll continue to do that as long as I can,“ she said.

So far, Torkildson said most of his neighbors are doing well during this uncertain time.

“I haven’t really talked to anybody who has felt too down in the mouth,” he said.

Many of them already have health issues, so it’s important to be cautious. But he said that helps him appreciate the beauty of life around him.

“Life couldn’t get better,” he said, noting the beautiful sunny day and the pretty purple flowers popping up in his rock garden. “Plus, I get to eat corned beef and cabbage today.”

Currently, he’s serving a free meal to about a dozen neighbors a day. However, Tokildson said he could feed 20, especially if pantry donations increased.

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