For six years, Janean Gegen has sat at the same seat during the lunch program at the Heritage Park Senior Facility.
With her back to the wall, she faces the group of friends she sits with all the time.
“This is just the spot we’ve chosen,” the Henderson resident said. “We are here every day.”
Gegen, 80, is one of the many people who take part in Henderson’s Black Mountain Senior Nutrition Program, which offers free meals once a day to people older than 60 at the Senior Facility, 300 S. Racetrack Road, and the Downtown Senior Center, 27 E. Texas Ave.
“I don’t know what I’d do without this program,” she said. “It has become my life.”
The city recently received $49,487 from the Nevada Aging and Disability Services Division for its senior-meal program.
“The city contributes matching funds for the program,” said city spokeswoman Kim Becker.
The city has offered a variation of a senior meal program since the ’70s, and it has received grant money to expand services since 2004. Private donations and corporate sponsorships are accepted.
Patrons 60 or older can get the meal for free — although they are welcome to donate to the program, with a suggested amount of $2.50.
The meal costs $5 for people younger than 60.
Along with resources to prepare daily lunches at the senior centers, part of the funding goes toward Henderson’s Meals on Wheels program.
Seniors line up at 10:30 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, waiting for the meal.
“The crowds usually depend on what we’re cooking that day,” Becker said. “When we do ribs once a month, it’s usually our biggest day.”
Once patrons take a seat, they are served by volunteers and city staffers. Becker said it was once a self-serve lunch, but it changed because many have mobility issues, Becker said.
“Some of them tell us it’s the only nutritious meal they get each day,” Becker said.
That’s an important reason they come, but it’s not all. There’s a social aspect to it, as well.
After her husband died, Gegen’s neighbors invited her to the lunch.
“I think I come more than they do now,” she added.
During her first time, she met a group of people in line, and she has been sitting with them ever since.
Sitting across from Gegen was 70-year-old Micha Grillett, another Henderson resident who has been coming to the program since 2010 after his 87-year-old mother, who sat on the other side of the room, told him about it.
“It’s the best way to avoid doing dishes,” Grillett joked.
He usually comes two or three times per week, and he probably would come more if it weren’t for mobility issues, he said.
Like Gegen, he doesn’t know what he would do without the program.
“If I didn’t have this, I would probably just stay home and die quickly,” he said. “This keeps me enjoying my life.”
To reach Henderson View reporter Michael Lyle, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-387-5201. Find him on Twitter: @mjlyle.