Food, Fellowship and Fun, Bring Seniors Together

Coming together for a meal is something most of us do with friends and loved ones on a regular basis, whether it’s for Passover, Rosh Hashanah or a family Shabbat dinner. We take for granted the warmth and comfort that comes with breaking bread and telling stories, even if we’ve told them dozens of times before (and don’t they just get better with each retelling?)

Each month entertain is provided by members of Creative Aging

As much as we treasure these moments, it becomes even more important for seniors, who thrive on social interaction and who may be limited in their ability to get “out and about” on a regular basis. Thanks to programs held at the MJCC, seniors in the Memphis area can take advantage of a special meal and live entertainment whenever they need it.

The Big Lunch, hosted monthly (with exceptions depending on the calendar) at the MJCC throughout the year, is an exciting event for seniors to gather with friends, enjoy a great meal and entertainment from Creative Aging. For just $5, attendees are treated to a lively hour of food, fellowship and local musical performers. As if that weren’t enough, each luncheon is themed, with volunteers decorating the tables accordingly.

Dorothy with Creative Aging Artist

Dorothy Hirsh has been involved planning the table decorations and working with other talented volunteers to execute each event to perfection for 14 years.

“Doing the decorations is so much easier if you develop a theme first,” says Dorothy, who works alongside a team of seniors to plan and implement unique themes each month.

“Dorothy and I meet to get ideas going, then we have to think about how we’re going to carry it out and from whom we can beg, borrow and steal,” says Big Lunch volunteer Chris Gang. “A lot of our themes come about because we have things already or we know where to get them,” continued Chris, who donated her collection of Japanese dolls for a recent “Beauty of Spring” themed luncheon.

Attendees come from all over the city, including the Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab, Town Village, Carriage Court, and Belmont Village, according to Jennifer Roberts, the former MJCC Adult Services Coordinator. “It’s so wonderful to have these people who used to be part of the programs at the MJCC when they were living independently come back again. Dorothy and all of the volunteers make this an event not to be missed!”

“It’s phenomenal. I mean it really is,” says Lynn Weiner, a regular Big Lunch attendee. “The first one I went to, I was blown away.”

A typical lunch attracts about 80 seniors but when a popular artist such as Joyce Cobb is the entertainment there might be more than 100.

Chris Gang enjoys helping plan the themes and decorations with Dorothy

Dorothy and Chris are just two of many involved in this popular event, which requires volunteers for set up, clean up, greeting, collecting money and implementing the décor. “We’ve gotten compliments, and of course we live for this – they can’t wait to see what we’ve done with the tables,” says Dorothy. A senior volunteer says Hamotzi and some folks often dance along with the live entertainment.

In addition to décor, luncheon attendees are asked to dress according to theme. “When we’re with the group, it’s a celebration,” says Dorothy. “I want them to have such a good time that they can’t wait to get back the next month. Because for some of the people, that’s the only socializing they get. And they come and it’s the noisiest room that you’ve ever heard!”

The MJCC also hosts a daily lunch Monday through Friday called the Lunch Bunch, with a suggested donation of $2 per person. Those kosher meals are made possible by funding through MIFA and Memphis Jewish Federation. Attendees must be 60 years of age and reside in Shelby County to qualify.

“It’s great,” says Steve Kaplan, MJCC Adult Services Coordinator. “It’s a lot of fellowship.”

The lunch is kosher and is prepared by Holy Cow, who also provides a lunch for residents at Plough Towers.

Both the monthly luncheon and the daily lunches are a great way to advertise other local events of interest to Jewish seniors. “We have been very fortunate,” says Dorothy of the coordinators who have helped with senior activities since she’s been on board. “The seniors have been very lucky in that respect. We’ve had Jennifer Roberts and now Steve Kaplan. I mean how can anybody be any luckier than that?”