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A Summer Off Becomes a Summer of Service

by Sara B.

Andrea W. knows a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body. Andrea, a guidance counselor at Vero Beach Elementary School, decided to turn her summer off into a summer of service. Not knowing what type of service she wanted to perform, Andrea joined the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of Indian River County. Through RSVP she found the Social Entrée Meals program at the Senior Resource Association.

Many seniors in the community are living at or below poverty level. Food is often the first thing cut from their budget when other needs such as medication, transportation and utilities take priority. The majority of seniors are also living alone which can lead to isolation and depression.

Senior Resource Association in Vero Beach, FL is addressing these issues through their Social Entrée Meals Program. The program gives seniors an opportunity to interact and enjoy a hot, nutritious meal with others. The lunch time meals are provided every weekday at no cost and are prepared and served by volunteers. Nutrition education and counseling is offered as well as activities to promote socialization. Studies have shown that seniors who have some sort of social interaction during the day are less likely to develop depression resulting in a higher quality of life.

Socialization is where Andrea comes in. She wanted to use her listening skills to visit with the seniors at Social Entrée Meals. For some seniors, their visit at Social Entrée Meals could be there only interaction all day. Andrea listens to their stories of happy times and heartbreak, of loved ones come and gone, of the good old days and how things have changed. She listens to their concerns and offers advice (counselors are good at that). Sometimes she laughs with them and sometimes she offers a shoulder to cry on.

Andrea’s greatest quality as a volunteer is her ability to care about every senior that attends. Thanks to Andrea and the many other Social Entrée Meals volunteers, over 300 seniors received 29,774 meals this year. Just as important, they were offered opportunities to share their stories and make friends. As for Andrea, her summer of service has inspired her to continue throughout the year.

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