“I don’t want to see this place close,” said Jackson as she contemplated all of the years that she had been coming there along with the friends she had made in that time.
“We come here right much because it is so close,” Jackson remarked. “ I like to come and be with the people, and the food is good.”
In the last two weeks, Jackson and other seniors who have frequented the site have been without the facility they’ve visited for so long. The Mingo Nutrition Site closed its doors about two week ago, when former site manager Lou Honeycutt resigned to accept another position, leaving the Sampson County Department of Aging scrambling to find someone to fill the void.
That’s when Lesia Henderson, director of the nutrition sites, sought help from local churches, looking for someone willing to volunteer at the site and keep seniors, like Jackson, at the facility for a meal and the fellowship that almost always came along with it.
Last week, Henderson’s prayer was answered by volunteer Donna Honeycutt, who offered her services in order to keep the Mingo seniors fed at the site. Honeycutt became aware of the volunteering opportunity after her minister, the Rev. Allen Roberts, announced it during a recent worship service.
“We are just delighted that a volunteer has decided to come in,” said Henderson.
In the last few years, Henderson noted that it has been difficult to keep people an the Mingo site because of the part-time status of the center’s leader.
“The job is part time and only 20 hours per week with no benefits and no sick or vacation leave,” said Henderson. And, with the state budget still looming and a county-level hiring freeze in place, Henderson is not certain that Honeycutt’s volunteer effort will turn into a paid part-time job for her. Henderson said she does hope that something will be worked out.
The site’s closing left everyone unsure of its future. Henderson stressed that her own responsibilities as director of nutritional sites and the Family Caregiver Support program, left no time for her to run the program “I could not come and run the site.” And, she pointed out, that the other staff members at the Department of Aging also had their plates full and could not give the amount of time required to continue the Mingo Site.
But in stepped Honeycutt who said she is quite content filling the void and helping her community.
“It clicked in my mind. This is exactly what I have been looking for,” said Honeycutt.
Henderson also hopes that Honeycutt will become a permanent fixture at the site.
“Seniors don’t like change,” said Henderson. Stability is important and something she said she hopes could be maintained at Mingo and the other nutrition sites.
Monday, as Henderson began to train Honeycutt in her new position, a few more seniors joined Jackson for a meal and fellowship.
Eunice Naylor, 82, who sat in front of Jackson commented that she loves the site because she knows that she will always have a good time. “We come out here, have a good time, go places and do a lot of things,” said Naylor. Some, like local senior, Ethel Strickland, 87, bring along friends.
Strickland commented that the Mingo Nutrition Site means a great deal to her knowing that she gets to visit places.
And as the group of senior women begin to discuss what has been happening with each other for the last two weeks, the aroma of a sausage lunch begins to permeate the air, leaving them all wondering how much longer until 11:30 rolls around.
In the meantime, Henderson came prepared with some recorded music, such as the 1940s classic “Baby Face,” for the group to sing, leaving behind their worries of the world outside of the Mingo nutrition site.
Katie Holland can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 136, or by e-mail at email@example.com.