A few years ago, Hands4Hope volunteer and high school senior Kirsti Buckendorf found that her community was failing to meet the needs of many senior citizens. After some research, Buckendorf approached Creekview Manor, an independent living senior housing facility in Folsom, California, to share some ideas as to how Hands4Hope could help. The discussion went well, and Hands4Hope was able to establish a monthly plan to encompass seniors in one of its outreach programs.
In just a couple hours every month, Hands4Hope’s Mercy Creekview Senior Dinner provides food, entertainment, and company to the seniors of Creekview Manor. Although the residence was built with the intent of providing housing to low-income residents, financial issues are still prominent within the Creekview community. Resident Coordinator Sarah Simons explained the importance of the program, expressing that many struggle to buy food as their money becomes scarce towards the end of the month. Through monthly food donations, Hands4Hope volunteers and staff are able to provide a gourmet, homemade meal for residents. Every month, the number of seniors that attend the dinner varies from 30 to 50. Those who stay home can still receive a dinner by requesting a volunteer to hand-deliver it.
For many Creekview seniors, the dinner is a place to interact with people--young people in particular. Jonnie, a four-year resident at Creekview Manor, said, “The kids who come here are great. I finally get to be around young people again and I love that.”
It’s not just the seniors who love the social aspect of the dinner, volunteers enjoy connecting with the residents too. Twin brothers Mason and Brody have been attending the dinner for five months with no plans to stop anytime soon. “At the senior center, we usually bring or make food to donate,” they said. “When we get there, we fill up waters for the main tables and figure out what main dish we are serving. There are also a few ladies who like to play Scrabble, so we see if they want to play. Once we serve dinner, we deliver meals to the apartments of those who couldn’t make it (sometimes for physical reasons).” Not only do the boys work hard to make sure that all seniors have food on their plate, but they have fun with it too. They often do art projects with the seniors and stick around after dinner to chat and connect with them.
Over the last eight years, keeping the dinner running has not been easy. After Kirsti left for college, her mother, Inga, decided to take on the outreach. For her, the two hour event turns into around a three day affair. She plans meals, prepares food, shops for ingredients, and even donates some of the food. “But in the end,” she said, “the warm smiles, hugs, and thank you’s make it all worth it.”
-Written by Kiren Belgal