It is obvious as soon as you walk into the Sumner Senior Center that people are having a lot of fun.
Tables of eight are scattered throughout the room, and the chairs fill quickly. Before lunch is served, there are 56 people in the room, visiting, dancing, and enjoying the company of others.
Five days a week, lunch is offered to seniors 60-plus for a mere $3. And the lunch is nutritious and served with smiles, laughs and hugs.
Kris Korsmo volunteers at the Sumner center three days a week as a greeter. She said being there among all her friends and helping them sign in and get settled makes her feel good.
Catholic Community Services meal site supervisor Ginger Rang runs the show at the Sumner site, as well as all the kitchens in King and Pierce counties, and clearly loves her job, which is rigorous to say the least.
After greeting all the guests on a recent day at the Sumner site, Rang moved to the dance floor for a quick spin with 94-year-old Joe Welch. Rang loves to dance and said, â€œThey call me Ginger Snap.â€
Rangâ€™s job is filled with hugs, lots of smiles and a dose of laughter from all the guests.
â€œI get a lot out of my job and love working with my team,â€ she said.
If a relief cook doesnâ€™t show up at one of the sites, Rang straps on an apron and takes over for the day.
Kitchen volunteer Sherrieâ€™ Nelson has been a volunteer since 2014.
â€œI like the fellowship and teamwork, and it has added to my life,â€ said Nelson, who was homeless when she came to the center and met a 94-year-old woman who took her into her home.
â€œI was homeless for five months and lived in my car. Now every place I sit in her home, there is peace,â€ said Nelson.
On this particular day at Sumner Senior Center, The New Band blasted out music as the crowd poured in, and it wasnâ€™t long before many moved to the dance floor, swaying to the music.
Arretta Robison was there with her husband of three years, Larry Heister. The couple, holding hands and grinning, were happy to share how they met at one of the senior center lunches.
Married for 58 years when her husband died, Robison said that the senior center scared her. She finally made the trip after realizing she just â€œwasnâ€™t going anywhere,â€ and soon thereafter met Heister.
â€œWe both said â€˜Never again,â€™ and yet, here we are,â€ she said.
Mazie, the dog mascot of the senior center, arrived with her owner Sharon Swartz and was greeted by one and all. â€œMazie gets a lot of loves here,â€ said Swartz.
Arlene Gallagher, who has volunteered at the center for five years, said she came to the center to play Bunco and met another volunteer. â€œNow I volunteer three days a week and I meet a lot of really cool people. Sometimes this is their only meal of the day, and if there are leftovers, they can take a â€˜to goâ€™ box home,â€ she said.
Catholic Community Services offers 17 meal sites in Pierce County and 12 in King County. In March, 6,370 meals were served in Pierce County by 107 volunteers.
Angie Long, program director for Stafford Suites, a senior living community across the street from the senior center, noted the center is funded by the City of Sumner and â€œis a community rather than a place, and I get to make a difference.â€
Long chooses the programs and activities. On this day, there was a movie after lunch, something all the guests look forward to.
â€œThe lights go down and guests eat cookies and popcorn. People tell me they would never miss a movie day, and they arenâ€™t picky about the movies,â€ Long said, adding,
â€œThe goal is (to be) a place for everyone.â€
Joan Cronk, who wrote this article, is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Senior Scene.
MEAL SITE PRICES INCREASING
Catholic Community Services (CCS) is raising the prices on its senior meal site meals in Pierce and King counties.
Starting Jan. 2, suggested contributions (for people 60 and older) and fees for anyone under 60 will be $3.50 and $6 per person, respectively, in Pierce County. In King County, the new rates will be $4.50 and $6.50. The increases, which range from 25 cents to 50 cents, are necessary to keep up with costs for the federal-funded meals, according to CCS.
As part of its senior nutrition program, CCS operates 30 meal sites, many of them senior or community centers. Monthly menus and meal site locations are published in Senior Scene. Additional information is available from CCS at ccsww.org.