The local nutrition center for Pontotoc County’s senior citizens celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. It’s unique in that it’s the one eating place in town in which there is no charge, but donations are accepted. The suggested donation is $1.50, and a hot, nutritious meal is served daily at 11:30 a.m.

The site manager, Sue Bingham, wishes all Ada citizens who are 60 or older would realize that the nutrition center is not “just for low income.” It’s simply that money doesn’t matter. People are free to contribute whatever they can. Many days donations for the noonday meal at the Center will be $15 to $20 for between 50 and 60 meals. “That means that some do not pay because they don’t have it. That’s fine. Each table has envelopes, and most tables pool their money into one envelope. No one asks how much each person pays, if any.’

“However,” she adds, “I think a lot of older people eat alone at home, and often they don’t bother with planning and cooking a nutritious meal. They’re missing an opportunity for good fellowship because they think the nutrition center is only for individuals with low-income..”

Today, Friday, Dec. 21, I went there for a brunch at 9:30. It was a genuinely good meal — scrambled eggs, sausage, a biscuit, orange juice, milk, and a carton of light yogurt which most of us took home with us. There is always coffee. Sue Finley played Christmas music at the piano. We stood for the pledge of allegiance as always, then a volunteer led us in prayer. The Center served brunch because it was scheduled to be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but it will be back in operation on Dec. 26.

Lunch every day varies somewhat in taste appeal, but I personally usually lick my platter clean. We have chicken more often than some would like, but considering the high price of red meat and the bad things it supposedly does to our circulatory system, we can understand having chicken two or sometimes three times a week. There’s always milk and coffee, two vegetables and a dessert.

I started going to lunch at the Nutrition Center last February. Most of the women with whom I swim at East Central University were eating there, and they suggested I come, too. I knew it would beat going home and eating lunch. I’ve always maintained that there something lonely and unnatural about eating all one’s meals alone.

I discovered immediately that, though the food wasn’t bad, the fellowship was great. Several people from Byng attend — Bill and Vonnie Climer, Mr. and Mrs. Chester Timmons, and at my table there is Joyce Bottoms and Winnie Poague from Byng. An employee at the Center, Nedra Hargis is from Byng.

Also at my table are Bob and Jewel Mayberry, Pickett; Peggy Pevehouse, near Gaar Corner; Jerda Shirley, Ruthie Batts, John Dial, the Rev. Bill Sluder and Amy,Sluder all of Ada. .

Ages of participants vary from 60 to 94. Some are a little sensitive about revealing their ages. Sue and some volunteers attempted to have a birthday table. Everyone who had a birthday in the current month was seated at a special table and honored with small gifts and birthday cake. This practice was abandoned because some didn’t like having attention called to their ages.

Several participants still work part time or full time. Just at my table, for example, Bill Sluder is pastor of College Heights Baptist Church; John Dial transports students for the Technical Center; Jerda and Ruthie work 20 hours a week at Camp Fire and Red Cross offices. Bob Mayberry owns and operates a cabinet shop.

When I started eating there, I found I knew some people because we have mutual friends or we’re in another organization together. Peggy Romans is a fellow member of the Writer’s Club. Sue Finley is a Skip-Bow playing friend. Cordell Goodpasture is a first cousin of Ed Christian of Byng. Duane Doane plays the fiddle, and. he’s a buddy of one of New Bethel Church’s singing stalwarts, Jim Parks. Paul Scott was a National Guard recruiter many years ago when our sons, Tim and Ralph, became members. Helen Proffitt and I used to be Delta Kappa Gamma members together, and she sometimes visits New Bethel with her sister, Marie Hill. Laverna Faulkenberry and I became acquainted last year when we were a prison ministry program together.

Though I know quite a few people, there are many more that I don’t know, and I’m looking forward to meeting many more of them next year.

The local nutrition site was opened at the building formerly occupied by Irving School in January, 1977 with Pat Peay as director, a position she still maintains. Sue Bingham has been site director for 14 years. There are four full-time employees: Anita Argueta, Tina Christian, Nedra Hargis, and Danielle Byrd who delivers food to 103 shut-ins each day. The staff also cooks for Stratford, a satellite center that gets 60 meals daily.

Helping Sue maintain a friendly, caring atmosphere is Evelyn Harris who works 20 hours weekly on Experience Work. Wanda Redding, on the same program, gives valuable aid in the kitchen. In addition, a host of volunteers help on the serving line.

Many-come to the Center for recreation in addition to lunch. They play dominos mostly, but some are interested in the computer room or the exercise equipment in the workout room. Sue says a few years ago when attendance was greater they played bingo and sometimes went on trips together. “If we had a larger attendance, we could have more activities,” she says.

I think more people would start eating at the Nutrition Center if they knew how much laughter and camaraderie is present.. Lunch is honestly the highlight of my day. I have a friend who turned 59 this month. She can’t wait to join us in another year. I hope there are many more like her.

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