After 40 years, Elderserve still going strong
By ANDREW MCGINN
Jenny Davis had no idea that a salad containing both carrots and grapes was even a thing until she started fixing meals for senior citizens.
In her two years as assistant cook for Elderserve Inc., the 36-year-old has learned more than ever about the world that existed before hers — although this one thing they talk about fondly, something called hog head cheese, can stay in the past.
“I don’t think I’d even try it,” Davis confessed, her nose wrinkled.
“If you didn’t know what you were eating, it was good,” offered Gladys Taylor, who, at 72, is going on her eighth year as Elderserve’s head cook.
One thing is certain — today’s young adults are tomorrow’s senior citizens, and if this month’s 40th anniversary of Elderserve is any indication, the organization is likely to still be around when Davis needs it most.
She and her peers can then amuse a new generation of cooks by talking fondly about chicken fingers and pizza rolls.
Incorporated on May 26, 1979, Elderserve is the local nonprofit that prepares Congregate Meals and Meals on Wheels for seniors 60 and older throughout Greene County.
The organization served its first Congregate Meal later that summer at the Elks Lodge in Jefferson.
Four decades later, Elderserve now provides more than 24,000 meals annually to Greene County seniors under its contract with the 29-county Elderbridge Agency on Aging.
Most will be delivered by volunteers five days a week to homebound seniors in Jefferson, Grand Junction, Scranton and Churdan, and the rest will be served in person at the Greenewood Center in Jefferson at noon.
Davis, for one, loves hearing stories about the way things were.
The mission of Elderserve has never wavered from day one.
“There was a need for serving nutritious meals to seniors,” said Linda Ross, current president of the Elderserve board.
Meals on Wheels, in particular, provides a service that goes far beyond just a well-balanced lunch.
“It’s really assuring to a family to know someone is checking in on their loved one,” Ross said.
At first, meals were served just twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), prepared by kitchen staff at the school district or the Jefferson Manor, then brought to the serving site by whomever was available (sometimes the police helped out).
Since 1983, meals have been prepared and served on site at Greenewood five days a week.
To commemorate the organization’s 40th anniversary, Elderserve will host an open house from 10 to 11:30 a.m. May 16 at the Greenewood Center, located at 401 W. Greenewood Road.
Thanks to a $1,166 grant in March from the Greene County Community Foundation, Elderserve was able to purchase new, lightweight white tables for the center’s dining room, along with various new kitchen items.
“It brightened up the place,” Ross said of the new tables.
Seniors who take advantage of the service are asked for a suggested donation of $4.25 to $6.75 per meal, but some can only afford to part with a dollar, said Congregate Meals site manager Amy Becker — but even if that’s too much, no one is denied a meal.
Volunteers are always needed to help deliver meals, according to Ross.
Taylor, who previously cooked at the Greene County Medical Center for 27 years, has no problem cooking for so many. Her day begins at 5:30 a.m.
“I like to cook it all,” she said.
Esther Kirby, a local senior who eats at Congregate Meals and also sits on the Elderserve board, summed up the beauty of the service in just four words.
“No cooking. No dishes,” she said.