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Keeping Meals on Wheels going

Two women driving force behind saving program

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POSTED January 12, 2010 2:52 a.m.

RIPON - Two Ripon women have stepped up to the plate and hit the ball out of the park in saving the Meals on Wheels program and enhancing the meals program at the Ripon Senior Center.

Rather than sending shut-ins frozen boxed lunches as had been the case, Terri Murray and Elise Siquig are making sure the Ripon seniors they serve are getting hot, nutritious meals taken right to their door by volunteer drivers.  

Murray is the coordinator at the senior center and Siquig is the chef who creates everything from cinnamon baked chicken to roast pork with Maine cranberry relish.  The kitchen was expanded in recent months through the support of the Bethany Home Society.  Both women have an obvious love for the seniors in the community – both were extremely close to their grandparents as they were growing up.

The preparation of the daily entrees involves its presentation in two sections.  First the drivers such as Jennie and Hart Lawrence and Joan Azevedo take the Meals on Wheels portion out of the kitchen at 11:30 on the dot.  The dining room at the center’s Wilma Avenue location starts to fill up about the same time with area seniors expecting to be served at 11:40 sharp.  Many of them consider the senior center lunch to be their main meal of the day.

The dining room is open to anyone over 60 who may also bring along guests other than seniors; however they must make reservations by calling 599-7441.  The lunch count has been averaging about 35 with 10 of those being delivered through the Meals on Wheels program.

Chef Elise was quick to note, “Without Teri, it would have been frozen hard fish squares for the Meals on Wheels.”  

Cooking at the senior center is a natural for Elise who grew up near her maternal grandmother’s kitchen where she learned several of her recipes – actually being raised on her cooking.  “I first baked cinnamon rolls,” she said. “It was the first thing I tried.”  

Her first entrée was
stuffed bell peppers

When she signed on at the senior center last year her first entrée was stuffed bell peppers that was rated as a bell ringer.  As for her grandmother Evalyn Greenhill who now lives in Alabama, Elise remembers all the smells of her kitchen and the traditional cakes that she made every year for the holidays.  She also remembers getting to peel potatoes for her early on as a young girl.

“I do remember – and now I have all her recipes,” Elise chimed.  “At first we were only cooking for 24,” she said of the senior center’s operation.  

Word got around that the lunches were good and the numbers grew within days, she added.   Daughter Andrea, 14, is following close behind her mom and often volunteers in the senior center dining room.

Terri Murray has been coordinating the activities at the Ripon Senior Center for the past 14 years – a devoted stay-at-home mom prior to that raising her three children with her husband John.

She, too, had a close relationship with her grandparents that fostered her care for the older set at the center that she operates.  It is obviously something of a passion for both women.

The Murrays’ three children are now grown with two out of college.  Katie is a junior at Fresno State majoring in Nutrition.  Meagan Veneman, 25, is working as an occupational therapist in Modesto.  She attended both Fresno and San Jose State colleges.

Son Matt, 28, is an IT specialist in Ceres and also attended Ripon Christian and Stanislaus State.  

The Ripon Senior Center offers a host of recreational activities from a pool room with numerous tables to ceramics, arts and crafts along with a computer room for its members.  

PG&E pitching in
with $5,000 grant

The hot meal program is being made possible through a partnership between the Bethany Home Foundation, The Ripon Senior Center, The City of Ripon and the San Joaquin County Department of Aging.

The Bethany Home Foundation is continuing to be used as a conduit for donations being fed into the program.  It took some $7,000 to bring the kitchen up to speed much of which came from a city block grant of nearly $4,000.

Oak Valley Community Bank donated $1,000 to the cause and Anna Brooks of PG&E is scheduled to present a $5,000 grant to the operation Wednesday morning.  Private sources have contributed another $2,000.  The salary of Chef Elise Siquig is being paid by Bethany Home.

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