The bill of fare is both healthy and gourmet: baked chicken, lamb, salmon, steamed vegetables and fruit. To drink, there is natural fruit juice and spring water. Everything is cooked with herbs, free of salt and animal fat.
For a donation of $2, senior citizens can enjoy this cuisine three days a week at the New Light Senior Center.
And it’s more than a meal. From Wednesday through Friday, diners are greeted with a smiling face and enjoy gracious fellowship as they savor the home cooking.
New Light’s Executive Director Jacqueline Debose prides the center’s success on its team effort.
“Everyone does everything,” said Debose. “The backbone is our volunteer staff, who does everything – shopping, food prep, cooking, room set-up and serving.”
Maudelle Shirek, Berkeley’s vice mayor and New Light co-founder, is one of those volunteers. She said she is confident seniors are being nourished when they eat at the facility. She should know – she does much of the food selection herself.
“If seniors come to New Light, they have a good meal.” Shirek said. “All of the food is fresh with no preservatives. We receive our donations from Daily Bread, Berkeley Farmer’s Market and Berkeley Bowl.”
Shirek attributes growing up on a southern farm with a bounty of fruits, vegetables and lean meats to her vision of starting the New Light Senior Center’s meals program.
“I was brought up on a farm with fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Shirek. “I took a Home Economics course at the University of Arkansas that taught canning, growing and preserving. My father taught me to be curious and to always continue to learn something new.”
She also urges the elderly to learn more about how nutrition affects their bodies and their general health. The goal of New Light’s nutrition program is to keep seniors healthy.
“I want to continue with good, nutritional food and would like more (community) participation with our program,” Shirek said.
When Executive Director Debose speaks of Maudelle Shirek, she reflects on their long friendship with pride.
“When I think of Maudelle – and I’ve known her for 25 years – I can tell you this: She is my inspiration. My commitment is to do a good job for her.”
New Light’s existence spans three decades. Ray Thomas, who delivers the meals for New Light, sees his duties as a labor of love, in which he gets as much as he gives.
“I enjoy helping the seniors,” Thomas said. “By delivering the meals to them, not only am I doing a service to seniors and the disabled, but to myself as well.”
Jacqueline Debose would like to see a larger center with an area expansion of 700 meals served daily.
“We are outgrowing our space”, said Debose. “I foresee a larger facility with a state of the art kitchen. I also want to expand Meals on Wheels to seven days and have corporations and individuals sponsoring the feeding of a senior for one month.”
She knows the goal may be difficult to achieve, but Debose says she’s ready to “I will tell you no lies, I won’t claim any easy victories, but the struggle continues.”
New Light Senior Center is located at 2901 California St. For more information, or to participate in the monthly sponsoring of a senior’s meals, please call 549-2666.