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Aug 5, 2019 12:32 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town's Senior Lunch Program Expands To Serve Westhampton Area

Liz Dwyer preparing a cold lunch plate at the senior lunch program on Wednesday, July 31. JORDANA PEARLMAN
Aug 7, 2019 12:39 PM

For years, senior citizens living in the Westhampton area have had to travel to the Flanders, Hampton Bays or Bridgehampton community centers to participate in the town’s senior lunch program.

But they no longer have to do that, as Southampton Town Senior Services recently partnered with the Westhampton Free Library to bring that lunch program to them.

The service began on July 9 and takes place twice a week on the second floor of the library, which just opened for use after major renovations.

On Tuesdays and Wednesdays at noon, Senior Services Director Liz Dwyer and another staff member provide a hot or cold lunch to senior citizens who are over 60 years old. Coffee and tea are also available, as well as a light dessert.

The lunch on Wednesday, July 31, fed nine people, including one nurse. They were each handed a plate of chicken Caesar salad, macaroni salad, broccoli slaw and a bread roll. For dessert, they were offered a cup of rice pudding.

First-timer Shelly Schwartz came with her friend Marie Turano to enjoy the meal and play Mahjong at the library afterward. The two Westhampton Beach residents met up with their friend Ginny Crisco, turning their lunch into a friendly gathering and an opportunity to meet others who attended.

Ms. Schwartz said she will come back because it is a nice way to spend her afternoon, playing games at the library after eating a nutritious meal with her friends.

“People liked the food,” she said, adding that Ms. Dwyer has been “very gracious” to them.

It was Westhampton Beach resident Joan Guiseppone’s first time participating in the program as well.

“My husband had passed away, so I’m by myself, and it was a way to connect with other people,” Ms. Guiseppone said of her reason for coming.

The lunch and coffee are prepared at the Hampton Bays Community Center, where the meals for all of the centers’ lunch programs are cooked. Hampton Bays has a central kitchen and Flanders and Bridgehampton have warming kitchens to hold the food, Ms. Dwyer explained.

The three other town centers offer the lunch service Monday through Friday, but the Westhampton program has limited windows because it is run out of the library, which holds a host of its own community programs each day.

“It’s a really good collaboration,” Ms. Dwyer said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the library. There’s really no place else in Westhampton that we could’ve gone.”

The library just completed renovations on both of its floors, turning the previously unused second floor into program spaces and administrative offices. The town had been meeting with Library Director Danielle Waskiewicz since January to discuss using the new space.

The Westhampton area has not had a community center since the Mill Road location shut down in 2015. The town has made efforts since then to establish a new center, with Councilman John Bouvier leading the pursuit, but plans have fallen short.

Due to the absence of a community center to offer recreational, educational and dining programs, Ms. Dwyer said she considered the Westhampton senior population underserved. The town provides transportation from the Westhampton area to the community center in Flanders, but many senior citizens prefer to stay in their area, she added.

“People just don’t see it as their community center,” Ms. Dwyer said of the Flanders location.

She mentioned that out of the eight lunch programs held at the library so far, they generally get eight to nine participants in a space that can seat up to 14 people. The most they had were 15 people, which demonstrates that a demand is present.

“I don’t think we’ll be here in the library as a permanent solution. I just don’t think the room is big enough,” Ms. Dwyer said. “I do hope that someday we have our own building and that we can do programming around it like we do in the other senior centers. But it’s a good start.”

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