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Exceeding expectations

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Benton resident Grace Jenkins (right) enjoys a hot meal with Margene Galloway and Marie Simmons at the Bossier Council on Aging meal site in Benton.

Benton meal site, community center sees rapid growth

The Bossier Council on Aging meal site in Benton has exceeded many expectations since it opened three months ago.

Not only are seniors coming in for a hot meal, but they are building friendships over an occasional game of bingo or dominos.

Mayor Wayne Cathcart said the meal site has been a big blessing to the town of Benton.

“This site has worked out really well. We opened with the hopes that someone would show up and they did,” he said.

Life-long Benton resident Grace Jenkins was so excited about the new senior citizen meal site opening in her hometown. In fact, she has only missed one day since the site opened in April.

“It’s wonderful,” she said with a smile. “I enjoy the activities and mingling with other residents. The fellowship is what’s so good.”

A team of community supporters helped make the site what it is today. Businesses, churches and residents all pitched in to donate everything from furniture and decorations to fresh produce and hot donuts.

Tamara Crane, Executive Director of the Bossier Council on Aging, is very pleased with the direction the new meal site is going.

“Benton has done so much work to make this their own,” Crane said. “The town has really gotten behind this and it’s something they really needed in this community. I’m interested to see where it goes from here.”

The meal site, located in a space that was donated by State Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, has already reached its daily meal capacity of 25. Crane said the building space is big enough to accommodate more seniors, but the funds just aren’t available to expand the number of meals at the site.

That’s where the community has stepped in once again. Terry Shinn, president of the Cypress Area Garden Club, presented a check for $500 to Crane and Cathcart this week that will be used to enhance the experience at the meal site.

“We like to give back to the community,” Shinn said. “What better way to do that than to give back to our seniors.”

Jenkins couldn’t help but smile as the check passed hands. She said every dollar is greatly appreciated because it will help more and more seniors in the community.

“It’s good for us to get out of the house. We need to keep busy and stay active,” Jenkins said. “The doors are open. Once they get to know us, they will love it here.”

The seniors and town administrators all see great potential in the site. They would like to see it grow into a full senior center, complete with transportation services, additional meals, recreational activities and health screenings.

In order for that to happen, Crane said it will cost anywhere from $30,000 to $35,000.

Donations are always welcome at the meal site – anything from money and volunteers to furniture and decorations. The BCOA meal site, located on the corner of Bellevue and Hwy. 3 in Benton, is open for lunch Monday through Thursday.

Services are open to all Bossier Parish residents who are 60 and older. Those wanting to enjoy a meal at the new Benton site will need to be assessed by the BCOA, but Crane said there is not and income criteria to meet.

Seniors who are interested, but have not received services through the Bossier Council on Aging should call (318) 741-8302 for more information. Seniors who are already in the BCOA system will not need an additional assessment, but will need to make arrangements ahead of time to receive a meal at the Benton site.