Monona meal site offers local seniors food and fellowship

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Local seniors are welcome to stop by Monona’s meal site every Tuesday and Thursday for a warm, healthy meal and fellowship with other community members. Lunch is always served at 11:30 a.m., at the community center, 104 S. Egbert St. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Local seniors are welcome to stop by Monona’s meal site every Tuesday and Thursday for a warm, healthy meal and fellowship with other community members. Lunch is always served at 11:30 a.m., at the community center, 104 S. Egbert St.

Attendance generally ranges from four to 10 people, and coordinator Marilyn Baade would like to see that number grow. When she started volunteering at the site in 2004, around 24 people came regularly. It was higher yet in the decades before.

“When I first started, the tables were always full,” recalled Jean Smith, who began volunteering in the 1970s, even before the area agency on aging began overseeing sites.

Baade said several factors have impacted participation. Obviously, earlier attendees have passed on, but many current residents have moved to Garden View, where meals are provided, or they opt to attend other social activities that conflict with the meal site time. Some seniors are simply working longer.

“Times are changing,” Baade said. “Things are so different than they used to be.”

The site offers several benefits, she stressed. Although the meals are no longer cooked on site, they’re prepared in Elkader and served hot at the Monona location in TV dinner-type containers. The menu always includes a meat or main dish, sides of fruits and vegetables and milk.

“It’s all you want to eat, and it’s good,” said Baade, who helps distribute the meals with volunteers Larry Metzger and Laura Ihde.

Once a month, Patty Scholtes from the Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A) visits the site for a “fresh conversations” presentation. She makes a featured recipe for attendees to try, which, in October, was ground beef and pasta primavera.

“I try different, off-the-wall things they might not normally try,” Scholtes said. 

She also provides exercise and nutrition tips and advises participants on how they can stay more independent and what they can do to feel better as they age.

“People need to remember,” Scholtes said, “that the meal site isn’t just for people in their 70s and 80s. It’s for 60-plus. Say you’re 60, had a hip replaced and have no family nearby, you can take advantage of this during the recovery period.”

Most importantly, though, said Baade, the meal site offers socialization. It’s a gathering place.

“We visit before, after and while we’re eating,” she noted.

It’s the biggest reason Marjorie Drahn attends.

“I come here for the fellowship,” she said, “so I hope it can stay open.”

Meals are also available to those who are homebound, and the socialization aspect is even more important there, according to Baade. Delivery people Larry and Diane Geisler and Donna Begalske may be the only people the individuals see all week.

“The big part is just taking a few minutes to talk,” she said.

Larry Geisler agreed.

“They’re glad to see us, and they just like to visit,” he said.

If you have questions, or would like to begin attending the meal site or receiving meals at home, please contact Baade at (563) 539-4605.

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