Phyllis Swalwell (from left), Jamie Schliter, Linda Spares and Pat Lemke serve up dinners at the Auburn Hills Civic Center.
When I was about nine years old, my mother took a job as a senior citizen coordinator at the senior center located three blocks from our home. This was also the first time when I did not have to have a sitter come and stay with me. It was a summer of freedom and massive amounts of chores. After picking up sticks from our wooded property, or mowing the lawn and weeding, my mother would sometimes call me up and ask if I wanted to have lunch with her at the center.
I'd pedal up to the center and chat with the folks and eat a two-dollar meal. On holidays like Valentine's Day, the center had parties. My mom would make little cherry tarts, and I looked forward to leftovers. These centers not only feed seniors for a nominal fee, it also gives them the opportunity to socialize. What makes the program even better is that seniors are not obligated to pay for the meals.
The senior services department in Auburn Hills still provides these opportunities to seniors, with the help of many volunteers.
On Thursday, I helped out by preparing food for the meals on wheels program. There are hundreds of volunteers. Some serve and package meals, while others serve as drivers who take the meals to seniors who can't travel.
Just the week before, a volunteer driver came to a home and found a woman who had been lying on the ground since five o'clock the night before. If it had not been for the driver, the woman may have been in that position for a much longer time.
When I arrived at the Civic Center, I met with Linda Spares, the kitchen coordinator. Because the Older Persons Commission in Rochester actually cooks the food for Auburn Hills, we had to wait a bit for it to arrive. But this provided Linda with the opportunity to show me around the Civic Center, which houses a gym, arts studio, game room and more.
A couple of seniors were whacking away in the gym during a heated pickleball match.
After the tour, we headed back to the kitchen. After donning an apron, I started packing bags with sandwiches, milks and salads and bagged them up for the drivers to take on their routes. Then, we started packaging a Swedish meatball dinner, with asparagus, egg noodles and peaches.
Alongside me were Pat Lemke of Auburn Hills and Phyllis Swalwell of Sterling Heights. Pat decided that she wanted to help out the center after her husband passed away. She takes on two shifts a week. While Phyllis, a harpist, has been volunteering for so long, she can't remember why she started. But she said she stayed because she likes the people. Jamie Schliter is a volunteer dishwasher, and the ladies love that the cleanup is now taken care of by him. Who says men don't do dishes?
On this day, the bus does not run to pick up seniors, so I didn't serve anyone face to face. I'd love to come back and meet seniors, or even volunteer as a driver (though, let's face it, with my navigational deficiencies, I'd need an easy route.)
The citywide support includes area businesses, and even the city manager, who all take time to drive. Volunteer Coordinator Alyssa Hawkins said that volunteers have saved the city more than one-hundred thousand dollars throughout the year.
Many local cities and senior centers have a meals on wheels program, and it's well worth your time to check it out. To find out more about the Auburn Hills program, call Alyssa at 248-370-9353.