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Community Center Meal Site Open Again For Area Seniors
Getting ready to enjoy lunch, and having some conversation as well, are, from left, Richard Hartgrove, Jim Renfroe, Mary Renfroe and Jetty Hartgrove. They were attending Thursdays senior meal at the Community Center. Marg Jackson/The Times

After an absence of several months, the Senior Meals program is back in business in Escalon.

Serving seniors ages 60 and older two days a week at the Escalon Community Center, the meals offer not only nutritious food but a chance for local senior citizens to socialize.

Taking over administrative duties at the site is Karen Corey, who said the lunches are served Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 a.m.

San Joaquin General Hospital prepares the meals, which are then delivered through the county’s Office of Aging and Community Services, with driver Gilbert Ortega bringing the components for the meals to the Community Center. On Tuesdays, he also delivers meals to the homebound in the Escalon area.

Corey said the switch to having meals provided through the county hospital has gone over well.

“So far I don’t think we’ve had anything we don’t like,” she noted. “They have a baker there, dedicated to this program, they have another person that does the vegetables, they have a chef for the entrées. The people really seem to enjoy the food.”

Corey said they average 12 to 13 people a day for lunch at the Community Center and they currently receive food for 14, with the ability to expand if more people want to come. There is no set cost.

“Whatever they can afford to give, if anything,” Corey said of diners donating to help offset the cost of the program.

The meals rotate, with half a dozen served now at Escalon, though the hospital does have up to 15 different meals they prepare for other sites. No one at the Escalon location is complaining, though, as they are satisfied right now with the variety.

Among the early arrivals on Thursday were Richard Hartgrove and his mother, 96-year-old Jetty Hartgrove, along with Jim and Mary Renfroe. They had all attended the senior gentle exercise class at the library earlier in the morning, then made their way to the Community Center for the senor meal.

“Oh gosh, yes,” Richard said of being pleased that the meal site was operational again. “I was lost without it. Not so much for the meals, but for the fellowship.”

Corey said they were able to start the meals up again several weeks ago and are slowly building back the clientele. She pointed to the assistance of her co-workers, Diana Dunn and Ginger Borba as being instrumental in making the program a success.

Jetty, at 96 years young, listed the meatloaf as her favorite of the meals so far.

“I like the Oriental chicken salad,” Mary Renfroe added.

Plus, she said, the camaraderie is an added benefit.

“It’s sort of like family,” she said.

Husband Jim said he enjoys going to the exercise class first, then sitting down to the meal.

“I have to pace myself,” the 90-year-old said, chuckling.

He and Jetty both marked birthdays in July and were able to celebrate with their senior lunch program ‘family.’

Corey said the local MarVal Main Street Market provides a birthday cake to them each month and they celebrate birthdays on the first Tuesday.

“She’s a real good hostess,” Jetty added of Corey.

Diner Virginia Fereira said it’s also enjoyable when there are some unexpected treats, such as when Dunn brought in some fresh fruits, including peaches and grapes, some eggplant from her garden and more for the seniors to take home.

“I took the eggplant because nobody else likes it,” she said.

Corey, who worked for many years at the Sharpe Army Depot, said she wanted to stay busy in retirement and this seemed to be a niche she could fill.

“I retired a year ago,” she explained. “I don’t qualify to eat here, though, I love that.”

The lunches are for those 60 and older.

In the future, Corey said she would like to have some activities to offer along with the lunches, with some craft projects likely, in addition to knitting and crocheting opportunities.

Escalon is on a three-week rotating schedule of meals, and the meal on Thursday, Aug. 25 will be the week two offering of Chicken Parmesan, steamed broccoli, brown rice, dinner roll and pudding.

Week one meals are Tuesday: Veggie brown rice soup, Chicken Caesar salad, dinner roll and orange; Thursday: Shredded beef taco, garlic broccoli, Mexican brown rice, tortillas, peach cobbler.

Week two meals are Tuesday: Roasted corn and potato soup, Chef’s salad, zucchini bread, peach crisp and the Thursday offering is the Chicken Parmesan meal.

Week three meals include Tuesday: Country style meatloaf, sweet potatoes, green beans, buttermilk biscuit, apple crisp; Thursday: Creamy tomato soup, Asian chicken salad, corn muffin, pineapple cake. Next week’s meals will be week three, with meatloaf on Tuesday, Aug. 30 and the Asian chicken salad on Thursday, Sept. 1.

Corey said they are eager to offer the lunch to more seniors, and encouraged everyone to come give it a try. Again, the meals are served at 11 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays.