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Volunteers, diners, drivers wanted

December 5, 2012

From left, Doris Heltzel, Marie Redman and Ellen Swihart share their crafts and special memories with those gathered at The Pines, the Bremen REAL Services nutrition site. Photo provided

BREMEN — Those that manage the REAL Services nutrition site in Bremen are hoping to add some new faces to the mix — at the table, and on their volunteer list at The Pines.
The program itself has been in Bremen for about 25 to 30 years and site director Rose Ann Hall says she has been involved exactly 10 years this month.
“I was in-between jobs and someone recommended that I apply to work for REAL Services and I got it,” she explained. “I love working with people and we have wonderful senior citizens in Bremen.”
Hall said she’d like to see more of them and that anyone 60 and older is invited to lunch, the many activities the local nutritional site offers, and even for a quick stop in long enough for them to say hello and to see what is planned for that month.
“We ask for a $3.50 donation for the meal (served at 11:30 a.m.) but if they don’t have it or don’t want to pay, that’s fine too,” she said. “They can just come in and ask questions and take a look around and just have a cup of coffee. They have to fill out a form for the meal but it isn’t anything about their income or anything. Some people donate. Other’s don’t, and not everybody can. But it isn’t a welfare program like some people think.”
The meals are delivered from South Bend each day (menus can be found in the Senior Shopper) which is why — Hall explained — that those that would like to attend are asked to make a reservation.
The acronym REAL stands for Resources Enriching Adult Lives and that’s exactly what those in charge of the local site aim to do. Every Tuesday the Bremen Senior Citizens Choir performs and Mondays those in attendance can play train Dominoes. Puzzle day is Wednesday, and Bingo is hosted a couple times a month.
“It’s not always the same pattern,” Hall said. “We have blood pressure clinics and entertainers. Sometimes someone will sing. The rest of the activities we try to change around a little. Mrs. Subina Rosentrager brings her students for a recital, and sometimes we’ll have homeschool kids in. … The seniors really enjoy the younger children.”
Hall said speakers from the Bremen Historical Society have come in on occasion and that every fourth Tuesday of each month the seniors host a potluck. She said the types of people she’s looking to have volunteer are those that might have a hobby or talent or crafts they can show off or teach.
“Any time anyone, a business, or agency or organization had a medical program they wanted to do or anything like that — they would love that,” Hall said. “They’re hungry for knowledge. Sometimes older adults have things they’ve collected for years and they could talk about them and show them. We have so many wise and interesting people that could share with us. … We’re pretty open to the ideas and we’re always looking for something a little different.” She said that at one point the site offered an exercise class but that it “didn’t really go over big.”
The number of volunteers that serve and clean up after the meals varies but most days there are about five.
“Some of my volunteers are getting up in age and with winter coming, a lot of people are opting to stay home,” she explained. “We are always looking for younger people. There are many people that are 60 to 64 (years old) and they’re still working so there’s no one to replace the older ones that stop. We’re seeing that all over.”
Besides needing volunteers, the Bremen REAL Services site needs more people to take part in the fun, learning, food and fellowship. Most that attend are 85 to 95 years old, the same ages as their volunteers, which is a problem as they pass away, become ill or move in with family or to nursing homes.
Lack of transportation is also an issue as the group just sold the van that was used to transport the seniors to and from their homes. The decision to stop was because of the high cost of gas and the need left unfulfilled of someone who could donate their time to carry the three to five seniors that used the service each day.
“Without a ride, they can’t come,” Hall explained. “And if I don’t regularly have 10 people a day that come, I may have to close down the site.”
Dec. 21 at The Pines, the seniors will be having a Christmas party with a special meal and planned activities.
“People don’t necessarily come for the food,” said Hall. “They come for the fellowship. We are like a big family and we stress the strengths of the friendships built here.”
To learn more, call Rose Ann Hall from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 574-546-2164. Those that wish to reserve a meal are asked to call a day in advance to assure enough are prepared.

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