Marengo resident, Mary Pflueger attends The Salvation Army Golden Diners Program at the Marengo United Methodist Church and said she enjoys the fun activities and good food.
The Salvation Army Golden Diners Program is offered from 10 a.m. to 1p.m., Monday through Thursday. The program is held in the lower level social hall of the church and is handicapped accessible, with a ramp to the front door and an elevator to the lower level, said Lori Hoots, assistant director of the program. Activities start at 10 a.m. and lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The program is open to all, ages 60 and up. The program provides seniors nutritious mid-day meals, Monday through Friday, in Kane and McHenry Counties, Hoots said.
“We deliver meals to homebound seniors and have several dining rooms, where those aged 60 and over can come have a meal and socialize with others,” she said. “We have activities at these sites that include: nutrition presentations, games, bingo, crafts, health screenings, and guest speakers.”
The Golden Diners Senior Nutrition Program started serving meals in 1974, Hoots said.
“The Salvation Army founded the program in response to the need for senior nutrition as part of the Older Americans Act passed by Congress in 1965. We have been trying a number of approaches to getting word out about the dining room service at Marengo United Methodist Church. We are having anywhere from one to 10 people attend each day we [serve]. We are still trying to find new ways to ensure all seniors in Marengo know they are welcome to this location for a meal.”
Hoots said The Salvation Army has been delivering meals to homebound seniors in Marengo since 1987, and from the Marengo-United Methodist Church since 2006. Today, about ten meals a day are delivered in Marengo, she said.
Funding for the program comes from a variety of sources, including: the Agency on Aging Northeastern Illinois; United Way; The Salvation Army; private donations from organizations and individuals; and from the diners themselves, she said.
“Any person at least 60 years of age or older may attend our dining rooms,” Hoots said. Donations are accepted. We do not turn anyone away for inability to pay. Also welcome on donation basis, are younger spouses of people over 60; live-in caregivers; and those younger than 60 who live in the residential buildings where we serve a meal. Currently, these buildings are Walden Oaks in Woodstock and Riverain Point Apartments in Batavia.” To receive home-delivered meals, potential diners need to first contact Senior Services Associates offices in Aurora, Elgin, Crystal Lake, or McHenry, she said.
“A case manager then talks with the potential diner to assess need,” Hoots said. “Then, Senior Services Associates contacts us to start home delivery service. The person receiving home-delivered meals typically is no longer able to drive to the grocery store [or] prepare their own meals.”
The Salvation Army of McHenry County is based in Crystal Lake. “Our meals are catered and ordered in advance, to ensure we have enough meals and there is minimal waste,” Hoots said. “While we welcome walk-in guests, the best way to ensure we have enough food and plan for quality activities is if we receive a reservation in advance, by either [calling] or reserving in person at the site for a future meal.”
Some of the additional Salvation Army Golden Diners sites in McHenry County include: Cary Senior Center in Cary; The Salvation Army in Crystal Lake; Harvard Senior Center in Harvard; McHenry Senior Center in McHenry; and Walden Oaks Apartments in Woodstock. “We have had a few sites located in churches, largely because we need the use of a kitchen to operate,” Hoots said. “We work with churches who want to have a reputation in the community as a church—who [serve] the community, no matter the faith of the attendees, as we do.”
Guests do not need to be a member of the church where the program is serving or a member of The Salvation Army church, she said.
“Where else can a person over the age of 60 go to have a nutritious meal on a donation basis, and engage in interesting conversation and activities with peers, without the noise [and] hustle and bustle of a restaurant?” Hoots said. “We are there to provide whatever activities our guests want to create with us.”
Pflueger said it is a, “very nice program.”
“You meet a lot of nice people, play bingo, and [do] all kinds of fun things,” she said “The food is always good too.”
Joyce Shepard, a Marengo resident and program attendee at the Marengo United Methodist Church, also said it is an enjoyable program. Shepard said she is, “sorry to see that not too many people attend.”
“At all of our dining sites, we have a dedicated, caring, smiling site manager whose primary responsibility is to make sure guests enjoy the meal, are comfortable, and [are] having a good time,” Hoots said.
Sharon Zeilstra, site manager at the Marengo United Methodist Church, said she wants to encourage people to attend and have a social time.
“They don’t have to stay for hours; but they can if they want to,” Zeilstra said. “We’ve got games, dominoes, cards, we play bingo at least once a week, and just to have a good time and have fun.”
Pat Smothers, also a Marengo resident and program participant at the Marengo site, said she would like to see more people attend.
“They don’t know what they’re missing,” Smothers said.
The Marengo United Methodist Church is located at 119 East Washington Street in Marengo. For more information, call the church at 815-568-7162, visit www.marengoumc.org, or make reservations at 630-232-6676.