Seniors who participate in the lunch program at the Havelock Senior Center are being asked to help pay for some of the cost.
Seniors who eat lunch at the center are being asked for a $1 donation to help pay for the meals.
“We’re asking for a donation. We’re not charging for it,” said A.D. Brady, director of the senior center in Havelock. “If they don’t have the money, they still get to eat. We’re not going to turn away any senior who needs a meal. If they have a spare dollar, we’ll be glad to take it.”
Funding for the congregate meals program for the Havelock Senior Center was cut two years ago. Eligible seniors in the area were told they could drive to New Bern to participate in the program. Not wanting to see seniors have to drive to New Bern and miss out on the opportunity for socialization and a meal, organizers at the Havelock center vowed to continue serving free lunches and received donations from various groups to help pay for the meals.
“The Disabled American Veterans gave us a check for $1,000, and that’s going to help,” Brady said. “It takes $200 a week to pay for the groceries to cook the food.”
Brady said the meal program survived for a year on those donations and other contributions, but money is getting harder to come by.
“Our funds are drying up,” he said. “We were not funded last year, and we’ve been running on donations. The Craven County aging board and the county commissioners have decided we’re not going to get any money this year, so we are in need of funds. We’re going to ask the seniors to bear some of that burden. … Financially, we just need a little assistance right now.”
Brady credited volunteers for maintaining the lunch program. He said in the last three months, 10 people have volunteered 623 hours, which at minimum wage represents $4,517.
“If it wasn’t for our volunteers, we couldn’t run this program,” he said. “They do an excellent job of going to purchase the food, prepping the food, cooking the food, serving the food and keeping the place clean.”
He said the center serves about 35 meals per day. Lunch is served beginning at noon each weekday at the center.
“A lot of our seniors, if they didn’t come here, they wouldn’t socialize with anybody at all,” Brady said. “They would just be by themselves. They come here, and you can just see how they brighten up at being able to socialize among their peers, and get a nutritious meal and save themselves a little bit of money. Most seniors are on a fixed income.”
He said that socialization is an important part of the meals for seniors.
“They start showing up about 30 minutes prior and sit around and talk,” Brady said. “Then they eat and stay about 30 or 40 minutes afterwards.”
He said the meal program serves as the hook that brings seniors in to the center, allowing them to learn about other programs that are offered.
“A lot of them that were just coming for the meals are now coming for our other activities and programs,” Brady said. “They’re sticking around for Tai Chi and Zumba and Wii bowling. They start participating and that makes them healthier.
“A lot of them say that without the senior center, they wouldn’t know what to do. A lot of them, their kids are grown and have moved away, and they’re just glad we’re here for them. They’re glad we exist and we’re happy to be here for them.”
The Havelock Senior Center is located on Trader Avenue between Miller Boulevard and West Main Street. For more information, call 444-6445.