Students at Otis Orchards Elementary School, 22000 W. Wellesley Ave., are finishing their lunch, laughing, noisy and body slamming themselves into the pads on the wall underneath the basketball hoops in the school gym. They are having a good time while the adults wipe down the tables after lunch and the students line up to head back to class.
It’s a stark contrast from the seniors in the multi-purpose room down the hall, but the diners are still having fun, laughing and joking while they enjoy their lunch.
Otis Orchards, part of the East Valley School District, is one of the only schools in the area to offer senior meals through Valley Meals on Wheels.
Pam Almeida, executive director of Valley Meals on Wheels, said she and Superintendent John Glenewinkel looked for other schools throughout the country that serve meals to seniors to model their program after, but they couldn’t find one.
The program has been in place at the school since Jan. 18, offering lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12:30 p.m.
“It’s wonderful,” said Principal Suzanne Savall. “The seniors that we have are thrilled to be here in school.”
“It’s going really well so far,” said Jill Ryan, Meals on Wheels site manager.
Diners get a nutritious lunch at the school and Savall has been encouraging many of them to volunteer. She said some of them are interested in playing games with the students and some want to help them academically. She has received several applications from the seniors already.
Marge Garrison, 88, is one of those seniors. A former teacher, she’s looking forward to spending time with the children.
Her friend Pat Richardson, 67, has been volunteering at the school for years. She said the lunches are also a great way to socialize.
“It gives us some talking time,” Richardson said.
Beverly, 71, and Edwin Littlejohn, 78, said they often have a Meals on Wheels lunch at Liberty Lake City Hall on Mondays and Wednesdays, and now they have an option on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
At a recent Otis Orchard lunch, they made a new friend in Mac McInnis, 74, who was new to the senior meals program.
“I thought I’d give it a try,” McInnis said.
“It’s fun,” Edwin Littlejohn said. “We meet people like (McInnis) here.”
Edwin Littlejohn also said the nutritious meals help him to look and feel better.
The menu for the seniors is the same as what the students eat. Chicken-fried steak days are popular with the seniors.
Savall, who looks forward to a day when the school is a community center for its neighbors, said the senior meals get her one step closer to the goal.
“We’re just happy to get the community here,” she said.
The meals are offered at Otis Orchards Elementary at 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Meals at Liberty Lake City Hall, 22710 E. Country Vista Drive, are offered at 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The cost is a donation of $3.50 per person, although no one is turned away due to inability to pay.