By: Pamela Macek
On the first Monday of every month, the Chester Library holds a very enjoyable program called Lunch and Learn. This two-part event is geared to reach out and benefit all of Chester’s seniors. Fun and educational, the library has received a lot of positive feedback on the program and has seen a steady increase in numbers among the audience who attend.
Mary Murphy, the point person who oversees the Library’s Adult Programs, shared how the Lunch and Learn program began. “Over ten years ago, staff from Chester’s Senior Resource Center reached out to us at the Library, requesting that we work together to facilitate this program. We said yes, and it’s been ongoing ever since.” The Senior Resource Center is a non-profit organization that operates in Chester, Mendham, Long Valley and the surrounding areas offering free wellness and exercise programs for the senior citizens residing in those communities.
While in its infancy, there may have only been a few attendees, but now Murphy attests to the complete success and continued interests for the program, gladly boasting that on any given month, there can be as many as 50 – 60 seniors participating.
Murphy went on to describe when the Lunch and Learn first began, a small, simple lunch would be served to the guests, which included refreshments and a sandwich platter. As the program blossomed, volunteers began to participate in making the lunch part a bit more festive. For several years, Delores Yurkovic and Claire Pompei, attendees now turned volunteers and both retired teachers, have eagerly and with devotion been overseeing this aspect of the program, preparing all the food themselves.
These ladies faithfully create festive holiday and season inspired food themes, which have included mouth-watering menus covering topics like, “Cinco de Mayo,” “Mardi Gras,” and a “Heart Healthy” theme. Not surprisingly, Yurkovic received a Recognition Award as Chester Township Nominee for the Morris County Cissy Lourey Award. Nominees for this award exemplify the qualities of compassion, dedication and service to older Americans. Those who know Delores and Claire can attest to the commitment to their fellow seniors and the joy they share with them through their volunteer service.
The second half of the program is, “Learn.” Here, Senior Resource Center Director, Martha Toledo and staff invest their time deliberating what the most relevant topics of interest are to discuss and which speakers would be best suited for the event. While there are any number of educational subjects which can be addressed, the priority is to focus on interests pertaining to the needs of Chester’s senior citizens. Practical areas of life such as finances, aging, nutrition, and heart health are covered. More specifically, in the past months, some of the topics covered were Nutrition for Gut Health, Online Health Info, Senior Dental Care, Strokes, Immunization Updates, Advanced Directives, Medicare, Maintaining Cognitive Skills as We Age and Safety with Medications. The speakers chosen are professionals, and have included doctors, bankers, a pharmacist and even a local dietician.
The most recent Lunch and Learn took place the first week in February. Despite the cold weather, over 50 attendees filled the library’s room, anticipating hearing from an engaging speaker whose topic was on Aging Well. Murphy shared, “Community organizations can partner together to offer programs to the community residents.” Lunch and Learn is the perfect example of this. The program begins at noon. Any further info needed can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.