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East Texas senior citizen meal centers reopen for first time since March 2020

Centers in six East Texas counties are back open for meals and fellowship
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 6:57 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 14, 2021 at 7:21 PM CDT
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EMORY, Texas (KLTV) - This week, senior citizens in six East Texas counties are getting back together for lunch for the first time since March 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced senior centers serving congregate meals to close their doors to keep people safe. And while they were still able to serve seniors by offering meals for delivery or pickup, we learned it’s about so much more than a meal.

“You can look at those four walls all you want to, but they won’t talk back to you,” said Mary Kate Burns, 92.

But the friends surrounding Burns at her lunch table this Wednesday do talk back, and for that reason Burns is one of the many seniors happy to be back at the Emory Senior Center for lunch. It’s something they’ve gone without throughout the pandemic.

“We have lost more members here this last year than we have any year since we’ve been open,” she said.

With vaccination rates increasing, the East Texas Council of Government’s Area Agency on Aging felt it was safe to open their doors back up to seniors hungry for more than a meal.

“A lot of these people have grown up, went to school together, lived around the community, and they have missed each other so much,” said Margaret Cagle, the meal site manager.

“We come for the fellowship, the joy, the happiness,” said Garland Matthews, 84. “Everybody here is for everybody.”

Matthews and Tommy Neff, 80, call themselves the youngsters at their regular table. Sitting alongside them are WWII veterans Neal Sanders and Manuel Coria.

“They’ve done a real good job putting it back together. I’m pleased with it,” said Sanders.

As for what this bunch talks about, it seems just about everything is on the table.

“I guess just about general topics, sometimes political, but you have to be careful with that, because we have a mixed group,” Coria said with a laugh.

The AAA expends about $2.4 million for the senior nutrition program annually in East Texas, serving approximately 4,000 seniors.

According to ETCOG, the AAA contracts with the Meals on Wheels Ministry of Tyler to serve six counties, the Meals on Wheels of Palestine for three counties, and the AAA serves as a direct provider for six counties. The program provides nutritious meals to older individuals (60 and over) through congregate meal sites and home-delivered meals.

AAA meal sites that reopened on July 12 include:

Marshall Senior Center

Open Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

106 E. Crockett Street

Marshall, TX 75670

Marshall #2 Senior Center

Open Monday – Friday, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Oak Leaf Apartments - 113 Oakley Dr.

Marshall, TX 75670

Jefferson Senior Center

Open Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

111 W. Broadway

Jefferson, TX 75657

UT Health Pittsburg

Open Monday – Friday, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

2701 U.S. Highway 271 N.

Pittsburg, TX 75686

Emory Senior Center

Open Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

179 Doris Briggs Pkwy.

Emory, TX 75440

Waskom Senior Center

Open Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

165 Texas Ave.

Waskom, TX 75692

*Reopened June 14*

Yantis Senior Center

Open Monday – Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

100 City Circle

Yantis, TX 75497

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