The Marjorie Stewart Senior Community Center has been closed for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn't stopped the Sherwood facility from helping area senior citizens who desire a hot meal.
The center has delivered thousands of meals already, and staff and volunteers have no intention of slowing down.
Going all the way back in history to pre-pandemic times, the center prided itself on offering lunch meals Monday through Friday.
"We had an in-house served, sit down hot meal for anybody who wanted to attend," center manager Maiya Martin Burbank said. "Our chef, Dominic Sachet, would prepare everything fresh daily. People would come in, sit together at tables, have coffee, have conversations and have a good meal."
But staff at the senior community center had to switch gears quickly when the coronavirus clamped down on all of us. It forced an uncomfortable decision for the center.
"I'll always remember that week, frankly, that week in March when the coronavirus got to be a bigger and bigger pandemic," Martin Burbank said.
The center closed in mid-March, "to help protect our clientele," as Martin Burbank put it.
"We had been thinking about it all that week, looking at the numbers, looking at the spread," Martin Burbank recalled. "We made the call on Thursday, March 12, to go ahead and shut our facility down. I went table-to-table at lunch, letting people know we would be closed for the foreseeable future."
Martin Burbank worked with Kristen Switzer, Sherwood's community services director, and Sachet to develop a program that would make it possible to offer delivered meals. Delivery service started Monday, March 16.
The ambitious lunch delivery service has involved staff and volunteers.
"In the beginning days, we were a real skeleton crew," she said. "It was Dominic and I for the first couple of weeks. We had one volunteer helping, then two volunteers helping in the kitchen."
Martin Burbank continued, "Dennis Doyle, who normally works in our field house for the city of Sherwood, came over to help us with deliveries. We have the support of other people in our department. If one of us are not able to work, we call in Tammy Steffens, our volunteer coordinator, to help us deliver meals."
As of press time, eight volunteers are working. Two of them help by calling members of the community to check how they are doing.
Seniors enjoy the variety of meals presented by Sachet, a skilled chef.
"During the pandemic, Dominic has really focused on comfort foods, foods that are given to make people happy and satisfied," Martin Burbank said. "He always does big presentations."
Sachet is quite famous among Marjorie Stewart seniors for his overnight roast turkeys and barbecued ribs.
"Most of our meals are going to be a protein, a vegetable and a carb, so you have that balance of nutrition," Martin Burbank said.
While the Marjorie Stewart Center stays closed, staff and volunteers log in plenty of hours providing home-delivered meals. The number of orders can change from day to day.
"It changes daily," Martin Burbank said. "I have about 60 people on our daily roster that rotates. Some people get it every day. Some people get it scarcely."
Meals are mostly delivered by staff within city limits of Sherwood, but some are delivered to rural locations.
"It's also really nice to see people, I have to say," Martin Burbank said. "I get to do the deliveries, and it's wonderful to see people's faces."
But Martin Burbank isn't simply content delivering and providing meals. She helps seniors in other ways during the pandemic.
"We have exercise classes that I teach either from various parts of the senior center or from my living room, that goes out over Zoom," she said. "We have bingo every Friday at 2:30. We have a video and a call-in option for people to play."
Martin Burbank continued, "We're getting ready to start up a Wednesday morning coffee break. We'll have a call-in and video option for people to get together and have coffee."
By September, the Marjorie Stewart Senior Community Center had delivered more than 3,000 meals.
Martin Burbank is always busy coordinating these orders.
"I, myself, check my messages," she said. "I check my texts, I check my emails to see who has ordered for the day. I call through and talk to anybody who is on the list to talk to for the day. I call through and let people know what the menu us. We email and text our menu out to people on our list. For those people who don't have internet services, I personally call and read them the menu."
Seniors receive a warm meal and a cold meal bag. The cold meal bag can contain a salad of some sort — healthy green salad, a fruit salad, a tuna salad, potato salad or perhaps a bean salad.
Meals are $4 each for ages 55 and older. They are $6 for ages 54 and younger.
"If anybody is worried about their ability to pay, or costs are prohibitive for them, then we are more than happy to have them on one of our scholarship programs so that they are able to still enjoy that nutritious and delicious meal," Martin Burbank added.
Those interested in volunteering in the future may go to the city website (sherwoodoregon.gov) and fill out the volunteer application. Members of the public are always welcome to make donations to keep the meal-delivering program going.
Martin Burbank is pleased with the response she has been getting from the Sherwood community.
"The support from the community, in general, has been wonderful," she said. "I've got nothing but phone calls, emails, messages on Facebook of Sherwood community members wanting to know how they can help out, how they can donate, how they can support the meal program — which has all been wonderful."
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