Each weekday, senior citizens from all over Mecklenburg County gather for fellowship, friendship and a hot meal – all free.“Some say we’re the best-kept secret in town. We’re more than just a lunch program, we do all kinds of activities,” said Mecklenburg County Senior Citizens Nutrition Program area supervisor Karen Hefner. Hefner said the SCNP serves lunch to more than 500 seniors at 18 sites every day. Even though the program falls under the Department of Social Services, income isn’t a factor. Residents of Mecklenburg County 60 years old or older are welcome to join for the fun and food. Michelle Hitselberger – the site director at the Mint Hill program, which meets at Philadelphia Presbyterian Church – said that while the hot meals are the main ingredient, the associated activities and friendships keep the seniors active and engaged. “There’s no reason that they need to sit at home watching another television show. This gives them something to look forward to. They make friends here. We become a family and help and look out for each other,” Hitselberger said. If February’s calendar is any indication, the Mint Hill seniors have a full schedule. There are exercise classes and board games, current-events discussions, special show-and-tell days, live entertainment, field trips, a walking club and other activities. Hitselberger says line dancing, computer classes and additional activities will be offered soon. Florence Broom, 85, said recently she had been coming for about a week, and she’s hooked. “As soon as I walked in, it was like I had known these people for a long time. It’s so nice having someone my age to talk to,” she said.“And I think the exercise classes will really help. I fell twice last year and have just finished physical therapy, so I thought this would be good for me,” Broom said. Bertha McKie, 79, has been attending the program at Philadelphia Presbyterian since 1997. “I’ve been coming here for 16 years. I started after my husband died,” McKie said. “I’ve made a lot of friends, but I also like the food. I live by myself, and I don’t cook.” Down Interstate 485 in Pineville, another group meets each weekday in Pineville’s Belle Johnston Center.The Pineville group is led by site director Judy Cook, who also keeps a calendar full of activities.Rachel Robinson, 90, has attended that program almost every day since 1989. A county van provides her transportation. “I enjoy coming here. It gives me an opportunity to get out of the house, and I look forward to it,” Robinson said. As far as the food is concerned, she says, hamburger and hot dog days are her favorites. Teresa Sanchez, 64, has been coming one or two days a week for a little more than three years to take advantage of the exercise classes. “I come for the exercise and really get a lot out of the arthritis program. It allows me to get exercise without putting pressure on my knees,” said Sanchez. “I also look forward to visiting with all the friends that I’ve made here.” In addition to the congregate meal program, SCNP also offers delivered meals for those who qualify, as well as short term home-delivered meals for seniors temporarily disabled due to an illness or other medical condition.
Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013
Senior Citizens Nutrition Program gets notice
Learn more: To learn more about the Senior Citizens Nutrition Program or to apply, call Just 1 Call at 704-432-1111 or the Senior Nutrition Information Line at 704-336-3144. To join a congregate site, visit the closest site, complete the registration form and start attending the next day. Transportation is available, but there is a waiting list.