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Council serves seniors

Mayor Linda T. Johnson serves Charlie Jackson during a March for Meals event Monday at the East Suffolk Recreation Center.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson serves Charlie Jackson during a March for Meals event Monday at the East Suffolk Recreation Center.

Suffolk City Council members, Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia staff and others came together to serve in a different way on Monday.

They all serve the public through the normal course of business, but at lunchtime at the East Suffolk Recreation Center, they served baked chicken, black-eyed peas, cabbage, baked apples and rolls to more than 50 seniors.

“It’s fun, and it’s good to sit and talk with the seniors and get a whole different perspective,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said while tying her apron.

“This is a good opportunity to serve the people in a different way,” Councilman Tim Johnson agreed.

Councilman Tim Johnson serves Sylvia Battle, left, and Beverly Jean Richardson during a March for Meals event Monday at the East Suffolk Recreation Center.

Councilman Tim Johnson serves Sylvia Battle, left, and Beverly Jean Richardson during a March for Meals event Monday at the East Suffolk Recreation Center.

The community heroes were on hand to serve in honor of March for Meals, a month-long celebration of Meals on Wheels. But the senior program happens every weekday at East Suffolk Recreation Center and every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Whaleyville Community Center.

Debbie Schwartz, director of development and community relations for Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, said the organization also has a home-delivered meals program that partners with Suffolk Meals on Wheels.

Lunch at East Suffolk Recreation Center is only a small part of the senior program, which lasts from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I enjoy people, and I enjoy the group of people here,” said Julie Bradley, a regular participant. “We enjoy sitting here talking, playing cards, and most of all we enjoy our devotion in the morning.”

Schwartz said the program helps provide nutrition and socialization for seniors, two of their biggest unmet needs. It also has exercise classes and brings in experts to speak about chronic disease management.

“It has a lot of different benefits,” she said about the program. Seniors often get their biggest meal of the day at the program. They don’t need to choose between food and medicine, and it helps them avoid isolation.

“Sometimes, they don’t get out into the community,” Schwartz said. “Even those who are mobile tend to stay home.”

The program has a $2 voluntary contribution for lunch, Schwartz added. Transportation is provided.

Vanessa Greene, president of the board of directors for Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, said the program is an important component that supports the goal of helping seniors live at home.

“It gives the seniors an opportunity to interact with other seniors,” Greene said.