Lunch program for seniors more than a meal

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Frank DeLoache
Friday, as he prepared to serve lunch to about 40 seniors, Sam Warlick said he knew the program at John Calvin Presbyterian Church had succeeded when food was no longer the most important part.
Don’t misunderstand Warlick. The director of the Lunch and More program at the church on Brenner Avenue brags about the healthy lunch that any resident 60 and older can get free on weekdays.
Friday’s menu: tuna salad on lettuce and tomato, mandarin oranges, macaroni salad and vanilla pudding.
Chartwells, the food service company that operates the cafeteria at Catawba College, caters the meals at John Calvin and Rowan County’s seven other senior meal sites.
The numbers themselves indicate success. Sixteen registered to eat on the first day of the Lunch and More program at John Calvin last July.
Now, 278 are registered, and Warlick, an assistant and volunteer helpers serve an average of 40 daily.
But even more important to Warlick is the sense of community he sees.
“They’ve begun to look after each other,” he says with satisfaction.
“These folks are not on anybody’s radar screen,” Warlick says. A former employee of the Employment Security Commission, Warlick says he has noted the site drawing people from almost every profession: airplane pilots and flight attendants, bank tellers and officers, lawyers, doctors, plumbers and electricians. You get the idea.
“The meal ó I don’t want to say it’s incidental ó but socialization and programs are just as important. We talk about nutrition, personal health and exercise,” he explains. “We call it food and socialization.”
The site at John Calvin threw a first birthday party for itself last week, and about 70 people attended.
Even though officials in the county’s Department of Senior Services opened the site to serve the northwest quadrant of Salisbury, anyone can attend. And the site now regularly serves residents from Ellis Crossroads, Cleveland and Mount Ulla.
Willie Reddick, director of the senior meals program for the county, gives much credit to the church, whose members first contacted Senior Services about opening the lunch program. The church leases its fellowship hall and kitchen to Senior Services for the program.
“People at John Calvin, they had been in touch with us,” Reddick explained. “They had just finished their new fellowship building, and they wanted to reach out to the community and do something. And they said, ‘Let’s do something for the seniors.’
“They did surveys. They helped us. We sent out letters and knocked on doors.”
Reddick said the community response shows the need that Lunch and More serves ó “especially now with the cost of food and the seniors who live alone.”
The meals don’t cost seniors anything, although the sites take donations. The county, state and federal government pay for the program.
Rowan County Health Department officials inspect the meal site, just like any other restaurant, Warlick said as he checked the temperature of the food with a thermometer.
The John Calvin site has earned a 100 rating for five straight quarters, Warlick said.
Some of the seniors who eat at John Calvin now volunteer to help Warlick and his assistant distribute the food.
Others help organize the programs. The site is open from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. weekdays and serves lunch at noon.
Gentiva Home Health Care comes twice a month to take blood pressure.
Residents play bingo every Thursday, and a representative from Rowan Public Library comes the second Wednesday of every month. A person from Salisbury’s Recreation department offers a “therapeutic recreation” program, and other guests, such as Wallace and Leonard, provide music or other entertainment.
“We go by group consensus,” Warlick said, and “there’s always something going on.”
“I would to invite all seniors 60 years and older who are looking for fun and fellowship to come out and join us,” Reddick said.
Where to go
The eight Lunch and More meal sites in Rowan County are:
– China Grove Community Center.
– Granite Quarry Community Center.
– Grace Lower Stone Church, Rockwell.
– Southern City AME Zion Church, East Spencer.
– Calvary Lutheran Church, Spencer.
– Lafayette Community Center, Salisbury.
– Third Creek AME Zion Church, Cleveland.
– John Calvin Presbyterian Church, Salisbury.
Call the Department of Senior Services, at 704-216-7700, for directions.