BY TRISTA VAUGHN
TAHLEQUAH – The Jim Proctor Elder Nutrition Center at the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians serves up free food and good times in equal measure for UKB elders 55 and older, as well as elders of other federally recognized tribes.
“The UKB Jim Proctor Elder Nutrition Center is a place where elders can socialize with other people and get a nutritional meal,” said Rebecca Dreadfulwater, Title VI coordinator. “The main goal is to get them out of the house. This is the perfect opportunity for them to catch up with friends or even make new friends.”
The center is partially funded by Title VI and serves weekday meals to UKB elders and their spouses for free.
“Title VI is the grant that funds the Nutrition Center,” said Dreadfulwater. “We serve Indian Tacos as a traditional meal every first Thursday of the month. The last day of the month, we celebrate birthdays within the past month and do a birthday dinner including cake and ice cream.”
Lunch begins at 11 a.m. and after 12:30 p.m., guests of elders are welcome to eat with them for a $5 fee, while children ages 0-17 can eat for $3.
The center also delivers free meals for elders and their spouses who are homebound.
“We also have people come in a do the home delivery meals. We have about 30 of those meals go out every day. It makes me feel good knowing we can still help people even when they can’t make it to the center,” said Dreadfulwater.
The center is also about more than just food, offering various activities in a community setting for elders. Dreadfulwater said this is especially important for those who may have lost their spouse.
“We have had people who lost their spouse and didn’t come back for a long time. I’ll see them out somewhere and invite them back to the Nutrition Center to stay and eat and visit with other people,” she said. “It is nice to see our elders smiling and laughing with their friends and even getting to meet new people.”
Bingo is played every first Tuesday, second Thursday and last Wednesday of the month. The center also has a small library with books and movies that are available for check out to elders.
“For them to check out movies and books, they have to sign off the items on the sign in sheet. Sometimes people check out books and movies for weeks because they wanted a couple books and movies to take home. It is free for them and they don’t have to worry about paying on it,” said Dreadfulwater.
Dreadfulwater has worked with the center for 11 years and enjoys what she does.
“I really love my job and it plays a huge roll into why I have been here so for long,” she said.
“Archie Vance is the head cook and Maranda McLemore is the assistant cook. I couldn’t ask for a better staff and we all work very good together. It makes my job a lot easier.”
To eat at the center free of charge, elders must be sure to fill out the elder form for their tribal card.
The Jim Proctor Elder Nutrition Center is open weekdays 11:30 am- 1:00 pm. Menu is subject to change without notice. On the third Tuesday of each month, elders can also get their blood pressure and blood sugar checked.
For more information, contact Dreadfulwater at 918-871-2861.