A local grocery store's donation to the Callaway Senior Center will help ensure seniors don't go hungry.
Last week, C&R Market donated about $1,260 earned through its grocery delivery service to the center.
"I tried to hold it together, but I was bawling that day," said April Redman, the Callaway Senior Center's administrator.
Jay Hickman, manager at C&R Market, said the idea came about after delivery requests boomed in the wake of COVID-19. Though the grocery store's delivery option isn't new, it quickly became so popular with older adults and people with medical conditions that would make them vulnerable to COVID-19 — so popular, the store had to do deliveries three days a week instead of one. Members of Southside Baptist Church also pitched in to help with deliveries, he said.
"We talked about it as a group, and the people were tipping the crew pretty good," Hickman said. "They decided to donate their tips to the senior center because we're very concerned about our folks there."
Hickman cleared it with corporate and began setting aside the small delivery fee the store charges. Workers could also opt to donate tips. In total, Redman said, C&R gave $183 in tip donations, $977 in delivery charges and a $100 gift card.
Redman, whose daughter works at C&R, said she'd caught wind a donation might be on the way — but she was shocked by the amount.
"I think it's important we do what we can to take care of (local seniors)," Hickman said. "(The senior center does) a really good job over there helping out people."
Redman said C&R Market is a longtime supporter of the senior center — they'll often help her order supplies and find good deals.
"It's heartwarming, and it really humbles me, to be honest with you," she said of the donation. "It makes me feel like we're not forgotten and that my work does mean something to the community, not just to my seniors. And I call them my seniors because I feel like I'm responsible for me."
Hickman noted C&R's delivery and curbside pickup services are still available, though they've scaled back to Thursdays only. To join the list, call C&R Market before 10 a.m. Thursday at 573-642-5115.
Redman said the donation was much-needed and much-appreciated. The Callaway Senior Center has been closed to the public since the pandemic began but has carried on serving lunch to-go and delivering Meals on Wheels. In other words: The expenses are still there, but all the usual fundraising options, from Saturday concerts to silent auctions to bingo, are off limits.
"The (Callaway Chamber of Commerce) did a drive for us recently, and a bunch of people brought in a bunch of the things I needed," Redman said. "We earned about $500 in donations from that. But to put it in perspective, as of March, we laced a little over $30,000 in what we still had to raise by the end of June. I've only been able to raise a little over $7,000."
Currently, volunteers deliver meals to 138-162 seniors weekly or biweekly, she said. Lunch is served from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Callaway Senior Center facility's side door (531 Commons Drive, Fulton).
How to help
Redman said the senior center will reopen when Aging Best, which administers the center, deems it safe. In the meantime, there are other ways the public can help out.
"I can really still use volunteers," she said. "If somebody was just willing to come in and help with my front flowerbeds, do some weeding — and we could really use some help with prep cooking, cutting vegetables and putting them in the freezer so we can save things as they're donated — that'd be amazing."
She's also seeking regular volunteers to take on Meals on Wheels delivery routes outside Fulton.
"I need somebody who can regularly take them so I don't have to take them all the time, which puts a lot of extra stress on my schedule," she said.
Items currently needed include whole turkeys, ground beef (the senior center uses a lot, and prices are currently "astronomical," Redman pointed out), frozen orange or apple juice concentrate, and crossword and word-search puzzle books.
"While the center is not open for activities, the problem I see most now is depression," she said. "Really, really bad depression and anxiety because some of these folks have outlived everyone they knew. It's like putting someone in solitary confinement in their own homes — it feels like punishment. They feel like their rights have been taken away. That's not the case; we're trying to keep them safe — but they need things to do to keep them busy."
One way Aging Best is trying to keep seniors busy is by adding a Tai Chi instructor, whose workout videos Redman plans to share with seniors through Facebook, she added.
The Callaway Senior Center can be reached online at facebook.com/CallawaySeniorCenter or via the phone at 573-642-2458.