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Salvation Army Veteran Steps Down After 30 Years



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Salvation Army Veteran Steps Down After 30 Years

BRIDGEPORT — To hundreds of senior citizens who get a nutritious hot meal each weekday at one of 18 sites throughout eastern Fairfield County, The Salvation Army’s Senior Nutrition Program is more than a meal. It is an opportunity to make new friends, remain active in their communities, and enjoy activities.

To Sandy Hook resident Judith McPherson-Meehan, the program’s project director, her work for the past 30 years has been more than a job.

“Running this program is such fulfilling work,” she says. “So often we serve single or recently widowed men and women. They are hesitant at first, but they come for the meal and soon they make a friend or two and begin staying for the services and activities. You see them smile and be really happy.”

The Senior Nutrition Program began in 1974 as a result of the federal Older Americans Act. Ms McPherson-Meehan began her career with the program shortly after it opened in Bridgeport, as the financial manager. At that time, she remembers, most of the clients were in their 60s. Today, although 60 is still the age at which someone qualifies for meals, seniors are more likely in their 70s or 80s when they join the program.

The meals are planned by a nutritionist to provide at least one-third of the Recommended Daily Allowance of nutrients. Lindley Caterers prepares most meals, but kosher meals, which are served at the Jewish Center for Community Services, are prepared by the Jewish Home for the Elderly.

“Today many seniors are looking for lighter fare, but they still enjoy many traditional favorites,” says Ms McPherson-Meehan. “We try to meet cultural and food preferences and offer lots of variety.”

Offerings range from baked chicken with mandarin orange sauce to broccoli quiche to lasagna. Most meals include soup, entrée, vegetable or salad, and a light dessert. While there is a suggested donation of $1.75 and more is welcome, no one is refused a meal because of the inability to donate.

The sites include senior centers in Bridgeport, Trumbull, Fairfield, and Stratford, as well as Fireside Apartments and other senior residences and Sunset Shores Adult Daycare in Stratford. The sites donate the lunch facilities, which are run by the program’s site managers. More than 100 seniors volunteer to help set up, serve, and clean up.

“I’ve learned so much from the seniors we work with,” says Ms McPherson-Meehan. “They are dedicated to the program and really want to help. We couldn’t operate without them.”

On May 20, Ms McPherson-Meehan marked her retirement as program director. Governor Jodi Rell sent her congratulations, and Major William Bamford, divisional commander for The Salvation Army’s Northeast District, remarked on the rare degree of commitment Ms McPherson-Meehan exemplified, as about 50 friends and colleagues helped her celebrate.

“To me, most of social service is thinking about how you’d like to be treated,” she concluded. “We run this program with that in mind.”

To learn more about The Salvation Army’s Senior Nutrition Program, call the Bridgeport office at 203-367-0605.

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