By Chelsetia Davis
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
Bobbi Rollands may not get around the way he used to, but his positive perspective on life allows his happiness to shine and reach others when he shows up for community breakfasts. Rollands is one of the regular residents of the Durham Hosiery Mill Apartments who participates in The New Voices Outreach Senior Breakfast program.
The Durham Hosiery Mill apartments, at 804 Angier Ave., are advertised as affordable senior living offering amenities such as a game room, beauty salon, and plentiful activities for residents.
The community breakfast program is run by New Voices Outreach, whose mission is to provide a beneficial program in a safe and comfortable environment.
With a very small group of dedicated volunteers, they serve a free breakfast Monday through Friday from 10-11:30 a.m. to 30-50 seniors plus 12 who are sick and can’t make it to the dining room.
The founder of the non-profit organization, Danita Williams-Johnson has made it her obligation to use her past experiences to motivate and help others that are in need of support. She and the other volunteers dedicate their time to show residents that they are cared for and appreciated.
“I’m glad they’re here. We know the residents will have something to eat and I appreciate it,” says maintenance worker Joe Moranski.
Rollands has participated in the Senior Breakfast program for three years before New Voices Outreach started coordinating the program in August 2012. In the beginning, residents from the building operated the program, but according to management it was not well organized.
Assistant manager Barbara Norris says that when it went from two or three people to 40, it made a big difference.
Norris is one of the managers of the complex who approved the program.
“The seniors receive a fresh, hot meal every morning,” said Norris. “It’s just a phenomenal program.”
Jackie Wagstaff volunteers to cook every day for the seniors entertaining them with her charming sense of humor.
“God sends me on missions,” said Wagstaff. “Every day I think how I have to feed the seniors because most have limited income.”
Other volunteers, Curtis Godfrey and Lachita Harwell, have developed friendships with the residents while serving them breakfast.
The breakfast program is maintained through a grant that is from the City and distributed by the nonprofit organization Feed my Sheep.
“The city has come in and met with the management staff before grant is issued, and provided an inspection,” says Williams.
In order to receive funding, every senior that eats must sign their name on a clipboard in order for the program to receive funding. Each month, Williams tallies up the number of participants in the program in order to prove to the city that they feed a certain number of elderly.
The New Voices Outreach Senior Breakfast program may be looking at other ways to be funded after the grant is finished. “When grant is gone, reaching out to individuals and corporations may be an option in order to maintain the program,” says Williams.
The Bull City Urban Market supplies food to Feed my Sheep which distributes the food to the program. They receive meats and perishables that help with the breakfast.
Williams sometimes supplements the grant money with her own finances to cover other items. “I purchase the cleaning supplies to maintain a sanitized and healthy environment for the seniors,” said Williams.
The program also allows seniors to become more sociable. Some seniors, who may be in their apartment around 9:00 am, sit in the dining hall and socialize while waiting on their breakfast.
Barbara Ann Hunt, a resident spends her mornings as a volunteer in the program in order to be active. Instead of staying in her apartment, she makes a contribution to her neighbors and the program by dedicating her time for a few hours.
“I always reached out to the underdog that no one wanted to deal with,” says Williams.
Williams’ future plans to enhance the program include providing housing for homeless, elderly and abused victims as well as transitional homes for previous incarcerated inmates.
New Voices Outreach welcomes volunteers as well as donations to help the growth of the program.
“When you do what’s right it feels good, if it didn’t feel good I wouldn’t be here,” says Wagstaff.
(from previous Voice stories)