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Seniors hungry for West meal site

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
CLEVELAND ó When the West Rowan YMCA announced plans to close in July 2007, the West Rowan Nutrition Meal Site was faced with finding a new home or closing.
Manager Louise Brown said some of the strict federal, state and local guidelines ruled out churches that offered to host the lunch program for seniors. At one point, she told town commissioners here Monday night, she suggested to the meal site participants that “it might be time to pray.”
When the Rev. Donnie Kent, pastor at Third Creek AME Zion Church, received a letter stating a new location was needed, he said “some bells started going off in my head.”
Not only could his church help keep the program going, Kent said he also realized having the nutrition meal site at Third Creek AME Zion was an opportunity for a community ministry for seniors.
When he contacted Brown about the guidelines, she recalled, “Rev. Kent said, ‘What we don’t have, we’ll get. What we have that doesn’t pass, we’ll fix.’ ”
The church, located at 415 E. Main St., had to add an extra sink before opening, Kent said, and the town offered to help meet the requirement for garbage disposal by picking it up.
Almost two years later, Brown said the program has grown in its new location and is continuing to grow. “They’re coming in by leaps and bounds,” she said. “I’d like to see more people from Cleveland come to the program.”
Some days, she said as many as 50 seniors eat lunch at the nutrition site, with average attendance in the high 30s. Brown said some people think the nutrition program is just for indigent people, but that’s not true at all. She said the program is open to anyone over age 60 or who has a spouse over age 60 who attends.
“It doesn’t matter how much money they have or how much money they don’t have,” she said.
In addition to offering seniors a balanced meal for a suggested donation of $1 for those who can afford it, the nutrition program also offers activities, crafts, games, sing-alongs and special speakers.
“Oh, they have a good time,” she said. “They really do.”
Brown said some of the programs are educational in nature. She said, for example, that she would like to ask law enforcement, fire department and emergency personnel to teach seniors how to be safer in their homes.
Participants also go on field trips twice a year. Next Tuesday, for example, Brown said they’re going to Shatley Springs and to the outlet mall in Blowing Rock.
The nutrition program is an opportunity for seniors to socialize with others in the community. Brown said two couples who met in the program ended up marrying.
For those unable to drive, transportation to the nutrition meal site is provided by Rowan Transit Program on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Kent invited town officials to join them on May 27, when the nutrition meal site will celebrate its second anniversary at Third Creek AME Zion Church. “Once again, we just want to thank you so much for all you have done,” he said. “Amen.”
Later in the meeting, Town Commissioner Pat Phifer thanked Brown and Kent for all they do for Cleveland’s seniors. “It’s a very worthwhile program,” he said.
The West Rowan Nutrition Program is one of eight nutrition sites in the county. For more information, call the West Rowan Meal Site at 704-278-2581.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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