Chicken and cheer at Council on Aging barbecue

Sep 25, 2020

How do you help keep Dartmouth’s seniors happy and healthy amid a pandemic that has isolated them for months, with no end in sight?

Give them a barbecue!

Cars lined up around the block for a free grab and go barbecue luncheon at the senior center on Sept. 24 as the Council on Aging provided yet another meal — and some conversation — to residents.

The COA has been feeding seniors and other residents regularly throughout the pandemic, with a free grab and go sandwich program and produce boxes over the summer as well as multiple barbecue and drive-thru events.

According to Outreach Coordinator Ellen Hull, the first car pulled up nearly two hours before the event was due to start, with 132 lunches already served by 1 p.m.

“They know we are always ready,” she laughed.

But it wasn’t just the free food that had people lining up.

Volunteers greeted those driving in, including two — Aggie Frier and Ginger Souza — who showed up as a surprise with signs to say hello to the students taking their virtual osteo classes.

And everyone gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” to one resident turning 100 years old on Friday.

“Everybody was happy to be here, to get out, and to see people,” said Hull. “And to get lunch!”

On the menu was grilled chicken — cooked up by COA director Amy DiPietro — and paradise rice, which contained peaches and peas, as a paean to the end of summer, DiPietro said.

“Amy grilled 360 pieces of chicken,” noted Activities Coordinator Nancy Miller.

“Total team effort,” DiPietro said. “We all chip in, and shop, and cook the food.”

Miller added that there were lots of questions from attendees about when the senior center would open again.

“We’re working with the Board of Health, and town administrators,” said DiPietro. “Unfortunately it’s just not safe to open fully yet.”

“We’ll continue to do these drive-thrus as long as the weather permits,” she added.

In the meantime, many of the COA programs are offered online.

Dartmouth resident Debra Lamoureux said as she drove up to pick up her meal that it was her first time attending a COA drive-thru event. 

“I liked the website, and I’ve been doing some of the classes,” she said. “And I can’t wait for them to open!”

“I think it’s wonderful what they do,” she added.