BY TIA CAROL JONES
The Thornton Township Senior Luncheon program continues to serve seniors in the Township, but it has moved its popular program from dine-in and carry out to drive-thru to accommodate the orders due to COVID-19.
The Thornton Township Senior Luncheon program is just one of many senior services provided by the township, which includes 17 municipalities throughout the South Suburbs.
The program was originally designed to provide food and social interaction for seniors in the township. For those who could not dine-in, there was also a carry out option and seniors paid a nominal fee.
Seniors, aged 60 or older, who reside in the township, are entitled to one luncheon a week at the site located in their part of the township.
Calumet Bakery provided the senior luncheon program with pastries as part of the meal. It gives the seniors something extra and it allows Calumet Bakery to keep their staff working.
Marcia Brown manages the Thornton Senior Luncheon Program. She said even in the midst of COVID-19, the senior luncheon program didn’t stop because the Township felt it was a service that was necessary and popular.
Brown said in addition to the number of sites where lunches were hosted, the number of seniors who dine-in had to be reduced. There also had to be a reduction in the number of seniors who were allowed to come and socialize. Brown added the changes were made to adhere to the social distancing guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health. “We adapted a drive-thru service, which was totally new for us,” Brown said, adding while it was a new experience for the township, the drive-thru was very well received by the senior residents.
The lunches are hosted on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at The Thornton Township Senior Center in Calumet City located at 1420 Huntington Drive. The Thornton Township Riverdale Senior Youth and Family Services Center, located at 14323 S. Halsted St., hosts luncheons on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The drive-thru services take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
“Our seniors never have to leave their car, they just drive-thru [and] pick up their lunch. [Seniors can pick up their meal] as long as they’re a resident of Thornton Township and possess a Thornton Township ID,” she said. “They just drive right through, just like at a McDonald’s or one of your fast food restaurants.”
Brown said before COVID-19, the average number of lunches served was between 600-700 lunches per week and this included both dine-in and carry out meals throughout the 10 sites. She said now, at the Riverdale location, the average number of meals served per week is between 100-110. At the Calumet City location, the average is 700 per week. The Riverdale location is a smaller location and the Calumet City location is for seniors only, explained Brown.
“On the east end of town, you have the larger towns, which you don’t have to live in a specific town to attend or pick up lunches from either site, but on the east end of town, Calumet City, you have your larger municipalities, Lansing, Dolton, huge municipalities. On the west end of town, you have your smaller municipalities, Dixmoor, Riverdale [and] Harvey,” she said. “You can live in any of the 17 municipalities and you’re invited to have lunch at either location,” she added.
Brown said that seniors are creatures of habit and they continue to do what they are used to doing. She said while the seniors miss the social interaction of the dine-in luncheon program, they appreciate that the township has continued the luncheon program in a drive-thru format.
Calling it a “100 percent positive response,” Brown said the program has received “nothing but accolades.” She added the seniors love being able to drive-up to receive their meals, without having to leave their vehicles.
For more information about the Thornton Township Senior Luncheon Program, visit https://bit.ly/3gTZLCp, or call 708-596-6040, Ext. 3170