Helping in the Community, One Lunch at a Time

Dan fills cups with soup during the Brown Bag Lunch program at St. Anne's Church.When it comes “community,” the care and compassion one finds at St. Anne’s Retirement Community reaches far beyond our doors along Columbia Avenue. Over the past four years, our Catholic-Centered senior living community has been involved in the Brown Bag Lunch program at St. Anne’s Catholic Church.

Located in Downtown Lancaster, St. Anne’s Catholic Church distributes lunches, free of charge, to community members in need. The Brown Bag Lunch program serves approximately 80 to 120 individuals, Monday through Friday, with the help of countless volunteers from organizations throughout Lancaster County.

“The program is utilized by people who are down on their luck. Volunteers don’t ask questions and the recipients are very respectful and thankful for the meal,” says Dan Lytle, who coordinates St. Anne’s Retirement Community’s involvement in the program.

Four times a year, volunteers from St. Anne’s Retirement Community roll up their sleeves to help with the Brown Bag Lunch program on the last Friday of each quarter. Meals are packed in the retirement community’s kitchen by a crew of employees, Residents and Sisters of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ on Thursday for distribution on Friday. When Dan Lytle asks for help with preparing the lunches, the response from the retirement community is so great, he usually has to turn away volunteers.

Deb and Amanda hand out brown bag lunches with a smile at St. Anne's Church.“I enjoy packing the lunches because so many people here want to help do it. There is love, a lot of love, packed into each of those brown bags. I am always amazed at all the people who want to pitch in,” says Dan of the Residents, Employees and Sisters who volunteer to help with the program.

St. Anne’s Retirement Community takes pride in providing its Residents with compassionate
care, and participation in the Brown Bag Lunch program as an extension of that mission. As for our Employees, Residents and Sisters who assist with preparing and distributing the meals, they too feel special to be a part of it.

The Brown Bag Lunch Program offers an afternoon meal to local residents in need on weekdays at St. Anne’s Catholic Church on Duke Street in Downtown Lancaster from 11:30AM to 1:00PM. For more information about the program, visit http://stannechurch.org and select “Brown Bag Lunch” under the Outreach menu.

New Friends for Kids at Schreiber Circle of Friends Academy

Courtesy of Schreiber Pediatric
Loretta, a 100-year-old Resident from St. Anne's and a Schreiber volunteer, plays with Charlotte during an afternoon at Circle of Friends Academy.

Alice “Skip” Steudler sat in the middle of a circle of toddlers leading them through musical games.

Over with the preschool-age kids, Betty Kuhn watched in one corner as a boy sprawled out on the floor with dozens of toy cars. Next to them, Joe Finger and his little buddy Grayson Pavlichko worked on pictures they were painting together. Several kids lined up to talk with Loretta Drolet about their little toy animals.

And out on the playground, Leon Hutton tended to a pile of sticks that served as a make-believe fire.

The unusual thing about these volunteers? They are all at least 79 years old. Skip is the youngster of the group. And the oldest? That’s Loretta, who turned 100 in August.
They come from St. Anne’s Retirement Community in West Hempfield Township, and their visits are coordinated by Hope Long, activity director at St. Anne’s.

All of the St. Anne’s volunteers are parents and grandparents, and they all said they enjoy the visits to Schreiber because they like being around the kids.

Leon, another St. Anne's volunteer, keeps an eye on kids as they play with a pretend fire on the playground.Loretta was impressed by how smart the kids are. She recalled one of the children showed her the little animals she had been playing with.

“I said, ‘That’s a doggie.’ And she said, ‘It’s a Dalmatian,'” Loretta said.
Her friends from St. Anne’s are just as impressed with Loretta.

“When I expanded our volunteer base,” Hope said, “I knew Loretta would be perfect. She’s kind and gentle. I knew she would be a good fit.”

“Loretta is my inspiration,” said Leon, who is still basking in the glow of recently being named St. Anne’s King of Hearts for 2017. “I thought if she can do this, I can do it, too.”

Leon admitted he needed a little bit of inspiration in the past year. His wife, Irene, passed away in January of 2016. They had been married 62 years.

“The time at Schreiber has been therapy for me,” he said. “When a person comes out of themselves and gives time, there’s nothing better.”

That’s exactly the kind of reaction Christina Kalyan hoped for when she introduced the program about a year ago. Christina is director of Circle of Friends. She said she thought the kids and the St. Anne’s folks could all benefit from getting together.

“There are a lot of families that don’t have a grandparent figure in their life,” Christina said. “And I wanted to offer (the seniors) a chance to get up and move around and do something that might add a little more meaning to their lives.”

The initial group was made up of a half dozen or so St. Anne’s Residents who have come over once a month (missing occasionally because of weather or schedule). Hope has brought in more Residents for the visits, and she and Christina both said they’d like to add a second visit each month.

Joe and Grayson have developed a special bond during their time together at Circle of Friends. Joe is one of a half-dozen Residents from St. Anne's who volunteer at Schreiber.“Our Residents love helping others and still have a strong desire to be needed and useful,” Hope said. “Schreiber is the perfect opportunity to allow this to happen. It really is a wonderful partnership and allows everyone the freedom to be who they are with no judgments or expectations from either group. It warms my heart to know that the universal language of love knows no age barrier! We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the Schreiber family.”

Back in the preschool-age room, Joe and Grayson had finished their paintings, exchanged them and gave each other a hug. These two formed a special bond from Joe’s first visit. Grayson is more than happy to sit on Joe’s lap and just hang out. And Joe’s gruff exterior crumbles away when he talks about his young friend.

“When we see each other and I leave, he makes me cry,” Joe said.

No, this is definitely not your typical volunteer group.

Originally published on February 28, 2017 on schreiberpediatric.org.