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Alfred lunch site a growing community

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Kay Chapman poses with TDI (Therapy Dogs International) therapy dog Rudy. Volunteer Ted Perry and attendee Jerry Cartledge get ready for a new round of blind golf in the background.

By Amie Acton, Alfred senior lunch site coordinator

“Would your chickens like this?”

After a meal of Spanish rice and beans, Dave Keefer is trying to get me to take his black beans home to my chickens. “I used to work at a pre-school in the kitchen and the smell of black beans when you opened an industrial sized can…” the accompanying face he makes while telling this story shows he has no love for the legume.

The senior lunch site in Alfred, recently reopened this past fall, has created a small but close community of people in the past few months. For those new to the area, like Dave and his wife Beth, the lunch site is perfect for meeting new people and playing a rowdy game of blind golf, a card game introduced to the group by longtime Alfred resident Harold Snyder. Unlike some attendees, Harold had never come to the lunch site before it was shut down due to Covid. After receiving an invitation to join the rebooted group he decided to give it a try. Living in Alfred his entire 90 years means Harold has lots of stories, as any person who has met him can attest. Perhaps his most impressive, so far that is, is the story of how he found a sapphire ring, which he then gave to his wife, in a load of soil delivered to his house to become part of his vegetable garden. The group liked the story enough they asked for him to tell it a second time when, recently, a group of therapy dogs and their handlers came to the site. While Harold’s 90 years are impressive to all, the honor of being the longest lived in the group belongs to Stuart Smith who just celebrated his 96th birthday in December.

Stu and his son Steve usually stroll into the site just as lunch has been dropped off. Stu, it turns out, is not a morning person. After taking off his coat Stu always asks “is the coffee good today, Mindy?” Mindy Smith, no relation, is also an attendee of the site who helps clean up after each meal. She chuckles at his question and nearly always responds with a yes and a smile. Stu is one of the pot-stirrers of the group and while he sometimes needs to have things repeated for him, the zingers that come out of his mouth are always memorable. While playing trivia one day, he answered the question “what is fear of flying called” with “throwing up”. When Dave Keefer dressed as Santa Claus to visit and take pictures with the group, Stu, in a teasing tone, commented on how interesting it was that Santa seemed to know everyone and how familiar he looked.

Along with Dave, Stu also regularly asks “would your chickens like this?”. Much to his son Steve’s dismay Stu will sometimes try to unload some of the fruits and vegetables in his meal, no matter how tasty they may be. Sometimes Steve is able to intercept him, putting the food in question into his to-go container saying they’ll take it home instead in the hopes that Stu might eat it later. The scene is reminiscent of kids trading food at the lunch table. Over time the group has learned that the chickens will eat stewed tomatoes, corn, and almost any kind of fruit. Brussels sprouts, much to everyone’s surprise, were of no interest to them, creating the running joke that if the chickens won’t eat them the attendees won’t either. While they swap stories, play rowdy games of cards, hang out with visiting therapy dogs, take pictures with Santa, and commiserate over their lunches, the Alfred senior lunch site is never dull. In the wake of the past two years and all its restrictions and trials, it is no small thing to be able to share a friendly meal with others.

The Alfred senior lunch group poses for a picture with Santa. Front row from left: Mindy Smith, Beth Keefer, Santa (Dave Keefer), Kay Chapman, Mary-Lou Cartledge. Back row from left: Stuart Smith, Harold Snyder, Jerry Cartledge, Steve Smith.

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