2012-13 “SERVING SENIORS” PROJECT
MARLBOROUGH ROTARY CLUB
P.O. Box 186
Marlborough, MA 01752
www.marlboroughrotary.org Tel. 508-509-6643
For the past 20 years, the Marlborough Rotary Club has provided community service by partnering with the local food pantry to deliver baskets of turkey dinner “fixings” to families the food pantry identified as needy. This effort was both time consuming and cumbersome, with uneven results. Every year, our experience was that some families were unable to use what we delivered, or were not at home, or even worse, were not qualified but received the basket anyway.
So, in 2012, the Club shifted its time, funds and attention from food basket delivery that may have impacted 30 low income families to providing Thanksgiving, in fellowship, to over 200 senior citizens that live in low income housing – some of whom were former recipients of those baskets in the past, and who had told us they could not use them!
The shift to this new project happened early in September 2012. Past President Lynn Faust, a local human services advocate, spoke to Past President Elaine McDonald and President Bonnie Doolin about a more effective use of the Club’s resources at Thanksgiving. She stressed the fact that seniors are often isolated at the holidays; they are unable to travel much in the dark and cold; and they love getting together in their various communities. Lynn proposed that by partnering with the Council on Aging, we could host a congregate meal for most of the seniors living in low income housing within the City.
President Elect Dave Walton made contact with Jennifer Claro, Director of Senior Housing in the City of Marlborough and they met to discuss the potential of actually staging this type of event vs. delivering food baskets as we had in the past. Jennifer told Dave the seniors never eat together, but that each location has a ‘club house,’ so they could. Also, the seniors were unlikely to cook a turkey, peel potatoes, and make pies with the fixings we provided in the past. Jennifer and Dave agreed to explore the congregate meal idea.
Board Approval/Tactics Development
Lynn had worked with a local restaurant, Stevie’s Eatery, to cater low-cost meals, and had asked the proprietor if he would help. Stevie agreed to cook and deliver hot turkey dinners to all three senior citizens’ housing locations for a breakeven price of $6.00 per person.
Stevie’s turkey dinner included potatoes, carrots, green beans, rolls, coffee, and warm cider. He also asked that Bonnie Goldberg, Co-Chair of the Marlborough Girl Scouts, be invited to have her Scouts assist in serving the food to the seniors as a community service project. The pieces fell into place.
The idea was presented at the October Rotary Club board meeting and vetted. After many questions, it was voted and approved.
Bonnie Goldberg then mobilized her troops to make individually decorated Thanksgiving cards so every senior would receive holiday wishes. A Cub Scout troop and Second Saturday volunteers also made cards, and plans were made for deliveries to the three locations.
Serving the Meals
It turned out bigger and better than expected.
On Monday night, November 20th people were lined up by 4:30 p.m. eagerly awaiting entry to the dining room. That first night we served over 90 seniors a Thanksgiving meal, and one Girl Scout sang ballads and show tunes during the first course.
“ …There were Girl and Boy Scouts, and their leaders, along with Rotary family and Rotaract members, the Junior Women’s Club, and our dedicated Rotarians themselves who were at the ready to greet guests, serve food, bus tables, lead a sing along, deliver handmade greeting cards, clean up, and generally make everyone feel at home,” President Bonnie relayed in her email the next day.
The scene was repeated – twice – the next night at the two other senior housing locations. Rotarian Nick Hurston and his wife played music and sang to the guests at one location, and Past Presidents Peggie Thorsen and Elaine McDonald led an impromptu sing along at the other center.
At all three spots, the results were the same. Everyone enjoyed a heartwarming great night of fellowship, and our Club volunteered for a group that tends to be forgotten. Meals were even delivered to those who were ‘shut in,’ and some of the best stories were of the conversations held with people who do not get many visitors.
Due to the overwhelming Thanksgiving turnout, the Club agreed to provide another dinner in March to celebrate spring. Stevie’s provided a meal of chicken and shrimp. When the announcement at the Senior Center was made and signup sheets were posted, 116 people signed up within two weeks!
Not wanting to cut anyone out of the festivities, the senior center set up other rooms so no one was left out.
So as Proud Rotarians, the change was great and the ultimate result was that we fed, sang, cared for, and smiled at over 300 happy seniors. Now they all want to know, “When is the next Rotary Dinner?”
Change is difficult, but often better. In spite of breaking with tradition, this Thanksgiving change really worked. All it took was one person to say “let’s change how we do it this year”, and it morphed to something for the greater good.
“You’ve Touched People and Know It. You’ve Touched People and May Never Know It. Either Way, You Have Something to Give.
It Is in Giving to One Another that Each of Our Lives
– L. Schlessinger