Serving seniors: Moore hopes to keep lunch program

By Racey Burden | Published Wednesday, February 7, 2018

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Every Friday, Marie Moore arrives at the Rhome Senior Center early in the morning and starts cooking.

Marie Moore

The seniors start to arrive around 11:30, eager for a hot meal. They hold hands and pray at noon, then start lining up for the food – homemade biscuits, meatloaf, chicken and dumplings, an assortment of desserts and salad.

While everyone else eats, Moore prepares boxed meals for those too sick to make it to the luncheon. She’ll deliver them later. Everyone else has been through the line and most have finished their food by the time she sits down at a chair in the kitchen to eat her own meal. She’ll clean up after everyone leaves, usually finishing around 2:30 p.m.

Eight years ago, when Moore and Bill Childress started serving the senior luncheon together, only four people showed up. Now there are about 30 seniors from Rhome and the surrounding areas who come to see Moore for a good meal. They bring side dishes and cash for supplies if they can’t cook anymore, and everyone visits for a few hours before heading back home with leftovers, if there are any.

“We’re thankful we have this,” Moore said about the senior center where she hosts the luncheon and Thursday’s dominoes nights. “We’ve never had anything to entice people to come before.”

But the senior luncheon could be coming to an end soon. Moore, who’s in her 90s, has been paid to keep the program going through the Texas Workforce Commission’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). But SCSEP recently informed Moore that’s she stayed on far past the program’s four-year training period and she won’t be offered any more extensions, meaning her position won’t be funded any longer.

The city of Rhome is facing two options: find someone else qualified under SCSEP to take over Moore’s job and the funding, or find money in their limited budget to pay Moore part-time. Though the council instructed Mayor Michelle Pittman di Credico to look for money to provide a part-time salary to Moore at their last meeting in January, it’s not a given that the city has funds to spare. The position is on the agenda to be discussed at the council’s meeting Thursday.

Moore, who said she never received any training or even a solid job description from the state program (“I always asked them what was my job and they never did tell me,” she said), wants to keep organizing activities for the seniors.

“I want to do it because I see the need for it,” Moore said. “This is about the only time people get together.”

Moore spends her week planning the meal and buying ingredients and supplies. She decorates the Senior Center for every holiday – this month was heart-covered tablecloths for Valentine’s Day – and cleans the kitchen and the dining area.

“I just can’t come into a bare building,” Moore said. “They get dressed up, they come, they want to do something nice. One of the ladies told me, ‘I just feel like I’m at home.'”

She cooks and makes tea and lemonade and checks that everyone has enough to eat. She eschews the easier meals, like sandwiches, in favor of more filling hot dishes.

“If we run out of food, I know how to make gravy and bread and we’ll survive,” Moore said.

Many of the seniors who attend the luncheon come every week if they can, and they all know Moore.

“She’s wonderful,” Lynda Green said. “She’d do anything for anybody. We sure want to keep it going for her.”

It’s not just the luncheon and dominoes nights Moore is known for – she helped found Pioneer Days (now the Fall Festival) and used to be a volunteer fire fighter. She’s well-known and loved in town.

“She’s had her hand on everything in Rhome,” Deborah BeCraft said.

Tommie Eason, a Rhome resident who helps Moore with senior luncheons, said Moore is the seniors’ program. They’ve looked for someone to take Moore’s spot with the SCSEP and found no one.

“My biggest problem with this is if Marie doesn’t do it anymore, I think it will end,” Eason said. “And for some of the seniors, this is the only hot meal they get for the week.”

Those who use services at the Senior Center are trying to brainstorm ways to fund Moore and keep the weekly luncheon. They’ve thought of having a bingo party with prizes, taking donations, garage sales, a GoFundMe account – anything to keep the program going.

Some want the city to hire Moore as a part-time employee.

“I think the city should be able to find the money,” Jo Ann Wilson said. “It’s a good program; it’s been going for years. It’s not like it’s $1 million.”

Moore also has plans she’d like to see through if she gets to keep her job. She wants to add a senior breakfast once a week and have a cook-out, complete with root beer floats. If she does have to leave the Senior Center, she’ll most miss seeing people enjoying their meals and talking and laughing.

“I’ve been here a long time,” Moore said, “and I enjoy every bit of it.”

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