A dining room set with colorful tablecloths, flower arrangements, new dishes and silverware greeted seniors arriving for Culver's first senior meals Oct. 1 and 4, at Culver City Hall's community room.
Greeter and Culver City Council member Amy McCully said 17 people (including servers) were served at the inaugural meal Monday, where Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, salad and cream puffs were offered.
Culver Mayor Shawna Clanton explained how the meal program got started.
"I am a hairdresser and come in contact with a lot of Culver seniors. I found out many of my senior clients were only eating once a day and I saw a need," Clanton said.
She and Culver City Recorder Donna McCormack conversed with Deer Ridge Correctional Institution's food service director, Richard Ladeby, who provides meals cooked in the prison kitchen for the Jefferson County Senior Center in Madras.
"We came up with a plan and got it started. We're using the Madras senior center as a model, but have our own contract with the prison," Clanton said.
The plan includes donating any leftover food to a homeless coordinator who takes it around to Culver people needing assistance, and giving the plate scrapings to a local pig farmer.
The city of Culver provided startup funds for the meals, but Clanton said the goal is to be self-funded, since they do not have grants or other outside money.
The charge for meals is $3.50 for seniors, and $5.50 for nonseniors, including servers. The hot meals are served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., every Monday and Thursday. Seniors can also buy a meal card for $35, where they pay for 10 meals and get the 11th one free.
Some 15 volunteers have signed up to help serve the meals. "We're serving the seniors because we want to make them feel special, instead of having them go through a line," Clanton said as she dished up salads.
Organizers are hoping more seniors will start coming to the meals.
"If anybody needs a ride and has no way to get here, they can call City Hall and I'll find some way to get them here," Clanton offered.
Another 15 people came Thursday to enjoy a menu of tossed salad, baked potato with chili and cheese, rolls, apple pie with ice cream, and a banana.
Peter Mickelsen, 70, came both days. "Shawna cuts my hair and told me about it, and I also saw a flier at the post office. The meal is outstanding, there's lots of food, and I even took some home," Mickelsen said.
It was the first visit for Isa Robinett, 80, who heard about it from her neighbor, council member Amy McCully, and enjoyed the conversation at her table along with the food.
McCully's husband Bob Rife, 76, agreed that the portions were large. "It's like eating at a truck stop, and I had to carry some away," Rife said.
E.B. Kinonen, 85, lives in the country between Madras and Culver. "I just happened to come to Culver and saw the sign outside and thought I'd stop," he said, noting that he had eaten meals at the Madras senior center before.
"I'm so tickled to see seniors reacting to this, because I was in on the formation of the Silverton Seniors," said Bette Bentley, 80, who moved to Culver several years ago.
"I'm very pleased with how it's starting out," Clanton said, noting this winter, they would like to turn it into more of a social gathering.
"We have a Wii system here and I'd love to have seniors stay and play Wii Bowling. We also have a big screen in the council chambers and they could stay and watch a movie," she suggested.