The Iola Nutrition Center celebrated 35 years of service on Thursday, Jan. 31.
“Being able to work with the elderly and hearing their stories is wonderful,” said Mary Maxwell, who has been the site manager since 2007. “Knowing that I am able to help them, in a small way, is amazing.”
Maxwell also cooks for the program, and prepares anywhere from 100-140 meals per day. In addition to the Iola Nutrition Site, meals are also prepared for the Manawa Nutrition Site and the home delivered Meals On Wheels programs for the Manawa and Iola-Scandinavia communities.
Richard Anderson and his wife Crystal visit the site a couple of times a week. “We now live at the Senior Village and have made a bunch of new friends,” said Richard. “We enjoy eating here with them.”
“I really enjoy coming to the center,” adds Nancy Domask. “It’s so nice that I don’t have to eat alone.”
“The people I have met are all so friendly,” said another guest. “The camaraderie is beyond compare.”
Carrie Lembke couldn’t agree more. “I’ve been coming to the center for four and a half years now. The people just become more and more friendly. The social aspect is my favorite part of the program.”
The Legion Hall, which is now Community Insurance, was the first home of the nutrition center. Years later it relocated to the village hall. The program has called Living Oaks Assisted Living its home since October of 2007.
“If we would have known that Living Oaks and the Senior Center were going to be such a success, we would have made it even bigger,” says Greg Loeser, CEO of Iola Living Assistance. He stops by at the nutrition site once every few weeks, and attended the 35th anniversary celebration, sharing jokes and a smile with the guests.
Volunteers play a big part in making the program a success.
“I was looking for somewhere to volunteer my time,” said Judy Vils. “I thought I would help with serving meals, but was asked to call Bingo.” She chuckles and says, “I thought to myself, I have a big mouth, I can do that.”
A retired nurse, Vils also does blood pressure checks for the guests each Thursday.
“We would like to see the program grow even bigger,” said Sandy Bostwick. “People have the misconception that this program is only for under-privileged members in the community, and that is not the case. This program is more about getting out and socializing while enjoying a delicious, nutritious meal for a reasonable cost. Everyone is welcome to participate.”
Bostwick has been volunteering for over eight years.
Meals are served Monday through Friday to individuals age 60 and over. Participants are asked to contribute what they can afford, with the suggested donation being $3.50.
“Mary has a great reputation as a cook,” adds Loeser.
Richard Anderson agrees, “She knows everything about putting on a good meal. And she is cute, too!”
For more information about the Iola Nutrition Site or to make reservations to attend, call Mary Maxwell at 715-445-2548. Transportation within the Iola village limits could also be arranged for those who need it.