The agency that provides free meals to seniors in the western part of Jackson County hopes a recent open house will help more people find their way to the Brownstown organization.
“We’re the best-kept secret in town,” said Cora Lucas, the meal site director for Thrive Alliance at Brownstown.
Thrive Alliance is the District 11 Area Agency on Aging that provides meals through eight sites in five counties in south central Indiana and other services, including housing for the aging and those with disabilities.
Lucas said during the Dec. 13 open house that she first went to work for the Area Agency on Aging 26 years ago when there was a meal site at Kurtz near the Hoosier National Forest in northwestern Jackson County.
She has stayed with the agency through name changes and the centralization of meal sites in the western part of the county to 124 S. Main St. in Brownstown and still works with some of the same people.
“I like to feel we’re ageless,” Lucas said. “We feel like a family here, whether they have been coming for one week or a decade.”
The Brownstown meal site recently underwent a name change and is now known as The Gathering Place.
Although Thrive Alliance provides food for seniors, going to the center is about something else for many.
“Companionship,” said Mary Londot of Brownstown, who has been going to the center for about three years.
“It’s something to do,” she said, and better than being home alone.
Earl Wolka agreed.
“We start playing cards at about 9:30 a.m., eat something and then play cards until 1,” Wolka said.
Wolka said he likes coming to the center so much that it’s causing him some issues.
“I have a farm at Tampico,” he said. “I don’t getting anything done. I spend too much time here.”
Abby Garcia, Thrive Alliance wellness and nutrition manager, said the open house is similar to another this year at the Seymour meal site, also known as The Gathering Place. A open house also is planned for Thrive Alliance’s meal site at Crothersville in February.
The purpose is to remind people that the meal sites are there to be used, Garcia said.
The Brownstown site serves the area around the county seat and points west in Jackson County, including Vallonia, Freetown, Norman and Medora.
Thrive Alliance also had a booth set up at the informal open house to share information about what it does, and there was food and music provided by Wilma and Lonnie Goen of Taylorsville.
Garcia said in the past, meals for each center were catered by a provider in Lafayette.
“Now, we’re going with more local providers to get food for each of our sites separately, so everybody has a different menu,” she said.
Seymour’s meal site, for instance, receives its food from Schneck Medical Center, she said.
“… and that’s worked out beautifully,” she said. “The Brownstown center and Crothersville center are getting meals from Hoosier Upland.”
Hoosier Upland Area Agency on Aging is in Bloomington and has its own kitchen.
The meal center is separate from the Brownstown Senior Center, but they share the same building, which is owned by the town.
“They may have separate things going on from the agency,” Garcia said.
Thrive Alliance staff is on hand from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“We serve lunch every day at 11:30,” Garcia said. “We try to provide meals if there’s a weather emergency or if we are going to be closed so people can take a meal home.”
The meals are free for people 60 and older.
“But we do collect donations as part of our funding for our program,” she said. “That’s really important to us so we can get some community involvement.”
What: Thrive Alliance meal site
Where: Brownstown Senior Center, 124 S. Main St.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays
Cost: Free to anyone 60 and older, although donations are accepted