BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Most of us remember our first “paying job.” It was a “paying job” because we actually received cash money in return for our labor. Before that, we did a lot of work for room and board. Looking back, most of us took a cut in pay when we began working for someone other than our parents.
Mine was an easy transition from cleaning out our cow lots to selling organic fertilizer on the open market. For years, I had used a shovel and wheel-barrow and piled the refuse out behind the barn. Some would go on our garden, but soon there was an “appreciable” pile on the north side of the shed.
About that time, three things happened in relatively quick succession…the pile got “in the way,” I turned 16 and I “inherited” my grandfather’s 1951 Chevrolet pickup. I saw a recipe for entrepreneurship and at $5.00 per load, the “Made in America/renewable resource” flew off the shelves. However, the pile was not as large as it looked, demand soon exceeded supply and just when the price should have skyrocketed, my literal “stockpile” was gone.
Fortunately, as I was about broke from 39 cent gasoline, a store in town had an opening. Not just a store…the only store. It was a combination grocery, meat market, hardware, drygoods, feed store, lumber store, sporting goods and gift shop. The pay wasn’t great, but it was the center of the universe. Basically a Bass Pro Shop, WalMart, Locke Supply and Crest Food Store all rolled into one.
We didn’t have a pickle barrel, but we still had a pen out back where they used to keep the live turkeys and chickens.
I swept the old wooden floors with a paraffin treated sawdust product. I stocked shelves, waited on customers, loaded feed, cut up chickens and sliced bologna. I carried out groceries, cut and threaded pipe and fitted shoes.
But the most enjoyable part of my job was making home deliveries. Sometimes elderly men and women would call the store with a list for us to fill and deliver. Sometimes they would walk to town, make their purchase and I would deliver them and their groceries to their houses.
Looking back, the personal contact was the most important part of what I did. To this day, I remember the names of the people whose homes I visited. Most were elderly and some were disabled. More often than not, they actually needed help putting their groceries in their cabinets and refrigerators.
Today, it is difficult to find a grocery store that will deliver, but that personal contact is still available through our Senior Nutrition Centers. I have visited many senior nutrition centers across the state and over and over again, I find people working in communities making those communities better and healthier. This program works and it provides much of the same support that we provided from the old country store.
Senior nutrition programs are essential to our communities and are at risk of being slashed. Much of their funding comes from the Federal Farm Program that is currently held up in Congress. This past weekend I visited with the chief economist for the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. He is from Oklahoma and was speaking at the State Convention for American Farmers and Ranchers.
The charts that he presented show that the budgets that provide support for our Senior Nutrition Programs will be cut. The Senate wants to cut that category by 4% and the House proposes a cut of 16%. Unfortunately, cutting the budgets of Senior Citizen Centers in any amount will render great harm to a program that is on a shoestring budget already.
Many do not fully understand the full benefit of our nutrition centers and the integral role that they play in Oklahoma. Not only do they allow socialization, but they provide nutrition to people who likely would not otherwise receive it. Plus, hundreds of volunteers across Oklahoma deliver hot meals from the senior nutrition centers to residents who are unable to go to the center. Not only do those home bound residents receive nutrition, but they receive a visit from a smiling volunteer who checks on their well-being and sees if they have any other medical or personal needs.
I would never want to embarrass him, but recently, I ran across former Representative Ron Langmacher, delivering hot meals from the Senior Nutrition Center in his home town. This was no special occasion; it is just a part of what he and hundreds of other volunteers do on a daily basis.
It is all about community and and regardless of your age, I urge you to support, volunteer, get involved and call your Congressman about the vital service provided by our Senior Nutrition Centers.