2011-05-19 / News

Hot meals and companionship each weekday at the senior center

By Cindy Cingone

Executive Director Charlotte Richardson, from left, along with Earnest Anthony Jr. and Janet Burns, help plan, prepare and serve hot meals to seniors and other Jamestown residents during the weekdays. Photo by Cindy Cingone Executive Director Charlotte Richardson, from left, along with Earnest Anthony Jr. and Janet Burns, help plan, prepare and serve hot meals to seniors and other Jamestown residents during the weekdays. Photo by Cindy Cingone The Jamestown Senior Center and Meal Site has been serving up hot weekday lunches and sandwiches to elderly and disabled islanders since 1994.

“[The food] is very, very, very good,” said Amedeo Cuomo, a retired World War II Navy veteran who has been going to the center since it opened.

The meals are prepared and delivered to the center by Westbay Community Action in Warwick. “The senior dining program has the Ocean State’s only hearthealthy menu,” Westbay boasts.

Charlotte Richardson, executive director of the center, said the meals are great. “I haven’t had something I didn’t like,” she said.

With choices such as Moroccan lentil soup, baked scrod with Ritz topping, cheese lasagna with meat sauce and Yankee pot roast, the center serves nutritious lunches sure to please most palettes.

Westbay updates its menus monthly. Meals are high in fiber and low in salt. The meats and poultry are unprocessed, gravies are few and nothing is ever fried. Meals are well proportioned and ample, providing 30 percent protein,

30 percent carbohydrates with the remaining balance comprised of fruits and vegetables.

According to experts, healthy eating habits are crucial to senior citizens and the disabled, and can lead to a positive attitude on life. People feel better when they eat right. Proper nutrition enables a person to live stronger, fight illness, boost the immune system, sharpen the mind and keep muscles and bones strong.

In this hard economic climate of rising food costs, the senior center has been a culinary oasis to local islanders. The meals are free to any disabled person or senior citizen over the age of 60, although there is a suggested donation of $3. Anyone who doesn’t meet the requirement can purchase a meal for $6. Every islander is welcome, according to Richardson.

Each weekday patrons have their choice of a hot lunch or sandwich from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Coffee and tea are self-service. The center accommodates on average about 60 people per week.

Richardson has wanted to do something for the island seniors from her days she served on the Town Council in the 1980s. Together with the Friends of the Jamestown Seniors group, Richardson leased the Grange Hall on West Street from the Conanicut Grangers in April 1994. The lease expires in 2044.

“We used to get our funding from the state,” Richardson said, “but that funding has dropped over 75 percent.” The town has since picked up some of the $57,000 annual budget.

“The town is very supportive and generous,” Richardson added.

State Rep. Deb Ruggerio and state Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed help Richardson keep the center’s doors open to the public by allocating the needed funds. Recently, Weed presented a $5,000 check to Richardson and Bruce Livingston, president of the Friends of the Jamestown Seniors, to help fund the center.

In addition to public funding, the center has also been graced with private donations of some amenities such as a microwave, cooking utensils, tables and chairs.

“We strive to make the center feel like home,” Richardson said. “We want our diners to feel com- fortable.”

That feeling of comfort includes seasonable tablecloths and flower centerpieces. Volunteer Ellen Chase does the interior decorating at the center as well as the exterior gardening. Chase brought the center “up from next to nothing,” Richardson said. Chase coordinates the center to match the holidays and seasons.

Manager Earnest Anthony Jr. staffs the senior center and Janet Burns is Anthony’s assistant. Together the team prepares and serves the meals to the diners. Clifford Guy keeps the building clean.

“We had the center painted two to three years ago,” said Richardson. “This year a new roof was put on. No more leaks.”

The center will be purchasing a van this year thanks to a generous grant from BankNewport. Together with other funding, the center hopes to have the van shortly. It will be used to pick up seniors who cannot come to the center on their own.

The senior center also provides weekday meals to eight participants at the Alite Care on North Road. In addition, there is an allvolunteer Meals On Wheels program that brings weekday meals to 55 people on the island. The Marra Meal Services prepares the food for the Meals On Wheels program.

Richardson calls in the meal requirements to Westbay and Marra every Thursday.

“We have 24 hours to add or subtract the required meals,” said Richardson. The meals come in exactly as needed and there is no waste, she added. The center provides coffee and tea as well as bottled water.

More people would come to the senior center, said Richardson, if they knew more about the program and had access to the upcoming monthly menu selections. The tight budget makes it impossible to mail out the menu so the center must rely on word of mouth or making the menu available for pick up.

The center offers both companionship and a healthy balanced serving of food to islanders in need of a good meal.

For more information, contact the senior center located at 6 West St. at 423-2658.

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