Two meals sites open for elderly

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

A social side to lunchtime: Patricia Rapp leans in to speak to Eileen Clickman at Tuesday’s luncheon at the Westerlo Reformed Church annex, seated across from Richard Umholtz. On the menu that day was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans. The next meal is on Feb. 10 at noon.

HILLTOWNS — As the congregate-meals site was closed and reestablishing at a new location in Berne, church members and concerned Hilltowners have started a luncheon program with a similar aim in Westerlo.

The meals site in Berne, at the senior center on Route 443, received its permit from the county’s Department of Health on Jan. 14, with regular meals scheduled to start there on March 2. The site was moved after its longtime home in Westerlo closed for lack of participation in August 2013.

For both the Westerlo Reformed Church and the Helderberg Senior Services Inc., the not-for-profit agency administering the Berne site, the target diners are elderly people who spend most of their time at home, with very little contact with other people.

“We need to find those people,” said Berne Supervisor Kevin Crosier this week.

In both Berne and Westerlo, diners should be 60 or older with a spouse of any age.

In the middle of a snowstorm on Tuesday, a half dozen diners sat in the annex of the Westerlo Reformed Church for the second luncheon of the “Young at Heart Seniors Ministry.” Volunteers wore aprons and cleaned the tables, feet away from racks of food and a freezer that make up a food pantry run by the Hilltown Community Resource Center, a partner with the church.

“People up here don’t seem to go out,” said Marion Cooper, still with a Jersey City accent from her youth. In her eighties, Cooper sat across from Evelyn Burnside, an old customer from Cooper’s ceramic shop who she hadn’t seen in over 20 years. With increased expenses, Cooper added, family members are often away at work, with ever-busy lives.

Part of the impetus for the ministry was the desire to start serving meals, instead of waiting on the county-funded site, said Chris Allen, the pastor of the Reformed church who spearheaded the idea with Mary Beth Peterson, director of the resource center.

“We know several seniors that are shut in and we thought, winter time, perfect time,” said Allen.

Warm kitchen: Giggles and good will come from the kitchen in the Westerlo Reformed Church annex as volunteers clean the remaining utensils used at a luncheon for elderly neighbors on Jan. 27. The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia


Lunches are served at noon inside the annex building behind the Reformed church on Route 143, every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. Music is played and the diners can stay for bingo.

In what Allen called a “card ministry,” church member Karen Bolte has started making personalized greeting cards for people, signing the messages with “your Hilltown friends.”

“I do think people enjoy getting something that they’re not expecting,” said Bolte, who has made and kept cards since her youth.

The program is being publicized through word of mouth, Allen said, and funded with donations, and with possible grants through the church’s regional synod.

As the ministry continues, Allen and Peterson hope to have the meals delivered to people who need help but don’t come to the church. They would also like to have handy seniors take local students looking for community service to help the elderly with small chores, like fixing a leaking faucet or tightening a handrail.

“They like to be very good housekeepers,” Allen said of the people the ministry wants to help. “They’re devastated when they see cobwebs, they can’t do anything about them.”

“Contractors are not going to touch this stuff,” she added.

In Berne, the meals are funded by the county budget, with most of the money coming from the state’s Office for the Aging, and the remaining 10 percent from the county. The menus are prepared using nutrition guidelines for the elderly set by the state office.

The Schuyler Inn in Menands, part of Father Peter Young’s rehabilitation efforts, will prepare the meals and bring them to Berne, where volunteers will help serve and clean, Crosier said.

Crosier said the two Hilltown meal programs could co-exist. He said the Schuyler Inn might serve good lasagna and attract people from all four Hilltowns one day. “One day the church might have a baked fish and everyone says, that’s really good,” he said.

With doors opening at 11:30 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, the Berne meals will be served at noon.

Eventually, organizers hope the Friday lunch will occasionally become a Friday dinner night, with entertainment, like a movie, slated for the evening.

“It’s not just food, it’s an event, it’s a social event,” said Crosier.

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