The Harlem Heights Community Center in Fort Myers is one of 10 dining and activity sites operated by the Lee County Friendship Centers. Participants can enjoy a nutritious breakfast and lunch in a friendly social setting that includes word games, crafts, cards, puzzles, bingo, dominoes, exercise and an occasional guest speaker. For neighborhood residents like Mary Jenkins, the program is much better than just sitting home watching TV – and going hungry.

“I’ve been coming here every day for over 12 years,” says 75 year-old Mary, who has five children, 38 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. “I’m a widow and I live by myself. The breakfast and lunch are very important to me, because I just get up in the morning, I don’t have to worry. I just wait for the bus to pick us up.”

The program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Mary loves sharing her mornings with good friends, many of whom she has known for years. Friends like Christine Morse, who has been a volunteer and participant at the Heights Center since the Friendship Centers first opened there. Now 83, she doesn’t cook for herself (her daughter prepares dinner) and really enjoys the food and the companionship. As her friend Mary says, “Everybody here is just like a big happy family.”

The nutrition program is funded in part by the federal Older Americans Act, which supports a range of home and community-based services to keep older adults healthy and independent. The program is also supported by the state of Florida, Lee County, and donations and grants. There is a recommended donation for the meals. However, many of these low-income elders (over 60 and/or disabled), cannot even afford the modest co-pay. No eligible participants are turned away.

Would you like to help underwrite the costs of a nutritious meal and social activities for older adults with limited resources? For more information and to donate, click here.