The smooth and laid-back sounds of Sentimental Journey forced Monteen Hooker out of her seat.
The Sherrills Ford native and Seniors Morning Out veteran slowly waltzed and whirled to the center of Bethlehem United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall, not paying any attention to her fellow 75 or so senior citizens sitting at tables in front of her.
To the slow jazz tunes, she danced. She danced and was happy — an emotion she said she experiences because of her involvement with the Seniors’ Morning Out program.
“My dancing comes from this program,” Hooker said Friday. “Sure, I have aches and pains, but I don’t feel those at the Seniors’ Morning Out program. I feel mentally and physically fit every day.”
Hooker is one of many Catawba County seniors taking advantage of the morning out program that promotes healthy eating and making new friends.
On Friday, Catawba County Social Services held a cookout celebrating the opening of a new Seniors Morning Out location at the Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Claremont. The program now has five different locations throughout Catawba County. Each site serves lunch Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“Often, seniors who are alone don’t want to eat by themselves, and this gives them a place to go,” said Jan Shaffer, adult services supervisor for Catawba County Social Services. “It’s about just being able to have a place for seniors to gather and have a nutritious meal.”
The morning out program is free and open to all senior citizens age 60 and older. Shaffer added the program is funded through the Catawba County, but donations are welcome.
On an average day, Shaffer said the morning out program serves about 150 people. The program only operates Monday through Friday, but Shaffer said churches occasionally volunteer to serve seniors on weekends from time to time.
Seniors’ Morning Out activities are diverse and can range from bingo to live music entertainment. As she displayed on Friday, Hooker said she has enjoyed the dance instruction the program offers.
“We have professionals that come in and help us get our bodies physically and mentally in shape,” Hooker said. "But if a professional does not come, we still do our own exercises.”
The morning out meals are prepared by Caldwell County caterer Moore’s Ridge. Seniors were treated to grilled and seasoned chicken breast, green beans and iced tea on Friday.
Serving it up
Two local government officials helped dish out the food to morning out attendees Friday.
Catawba County Manager Tom Lundy and Claremont City Manager Doug Barrick strapped on an apron and grabbed a pair of tongs to help serve the food to more than 75 seniors who attended the cookout.
“It’s a great opportunity for seniors to be out, socialize and have a good meal,” Lundy said. “The activities are very impressive.”
Claremont morning out supervisor Wendy Thomas talked about some of the other activities the program offers, such as guest speakers on various topics, special day outings, trips and exercise and wellness programs.
“Our main focus is all about love,” Thomas said. “They come here to show love, and I hope that I can show love back every day.”
Hooker, who addressed the crowd Friday with a personal testimonial, said the program’s “love” has changed her life.
“I have been doing this for six years,” Hooker said, “and I don’t think I would be the way I am today without the Seniors’ Morning Out program.”