Help Comes From All Sides At Rim Country Health



Dale Songer, a patient at Rim Country Health & Retirement Community, brings a lifetime of experience as a cook, which he shares with the RCH&RC kitchen staff. Songer originally began cooking for his brothers and sisters as they were growing up, and later in logging and mining camps. His meatloaf and enchiladas are so popular with patients and staff, when it is announced they are on the day’s menu, people line up to enjoy them.


Rim Country Health photo

Director of Food Service Milka Vergara helped Dale Songer come out of his shell by encouraging him to return to his love of cooking.

Health care professionals going the extra mile to help their patients is not an unusual event in the Rim Country. The area is blessed with men and women of all ages willing to step up and do more than the routine to help the people in their care.

At Rim Country Health & Retirement Community that willingness is not restricted to the health care staff, Milka Vergara, the facility’s director of food service, is playing a role in helping one of the patients.

Dale Songer, 55, was brought to Rim Country Health back in April. He said he had been living in a cave and when he was brought in he wanted to die. Songer suffers from a respiratory condition and arthritis so severe his legs just give way if he is on his feet too long.

As his health began to improve, he talked with Vergara about a recipe and she liked the sound of it, so she tried it.

“Milka is behind it all. She helped bring me out of my shell,” Songer said.

One recipe grew to more and when he was strong enough, Songer started helping in the preparation of some of his dishes and eventually became the lead chef when they were prepared.

Now some of his recipes are part of the regular menu at Rim Country Health. The most popular are his meatloaf and enchiladas. When it is announced that the kitchen is serving one of those dishes, both patients and staff line up for the meal.

Originally from South Dakota, Songer has been cooking all his life, first for his brothers and sisters, and then in logging and mining camps, and for biker and church groups.

He is also a handyman and has built everything from houses to shelves.

Songer most enjoys country cooking: fried chicken and mashed potatoes, and what he calls country beans made from whatever scraps he has around.

He also likes to do Italian cooking and can make a mean bean lasagna, he said.

His favorites to eat are a good barbecue hamburger with homemade fries and a lot of chili. Songer’s favorite desserts are made with pears, he said.

Songer does not yet have a home to return to when he leaves Rim Country Health, but before he worries about that, he will continue to be cared for until he regains his strength and endurance to live independently. And that care comes from many different compassionate souls.


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