Teenagers deliver groceries to Macon senior center

alopez@macon.comNovember 26, 2013 

Visitors to the Macon-Bibb County Senior Citizens Center got an early holiday treat Tuesday when dozens of middle and high school students from across the county provided them with groceries, songs and conversation.

More than 60 people were handed bags of groceries, and more than 50 teenagers participated. The event, in its 14th year, was organized by the Mentors Project of Bibb County with the help of the Middle Georgia Food Bank and Kroger stores.

June O’Neal, executive director of the Mentors Project, said 85 bags of groceries -- filled with bread, canned goods, cereal and fruit -- were prepared. Rain may have hurt the turnout, she said, but leftover bags were delivered to homes later.

While the bags were handed out, young women sang Christmas carols, and other teenagers circulated among the older people, shaking hands and exchanging stories.

Before they arrived at the center, the students were provided breakfast. They also wrote essays on what they were thankful for and competed for a prize from the Mentors Project.

O’Neal said one of the biggest challenges in organizing the event was getting the teenagers from their homes to the center.

“I was picking up children at 7 o’clock,” she said.

School officials refer students to the Mentors Project, which then matches them with positive role models. One goal is to help reduce school dropout rates.

“When children get up at 7 a.m. to come and volunteer, that gives me great cause for thanksgiving,” O’Neal said.

Nicholas Dahlquist, a freshman at Howard High School, lives in a group home and was invited by a friend, a Mentors Project member, to attend the event.

Dahlquist helped distribute bags and also spent time chatting with Vietnam War veteran Melvin Hill.

“It felt great knowing that I helped out a little bit,” Dahlquist said.

Hill, 68, who lives alone, said he visits the center several times a week and likes to play bingo and engage in “good conversation.”

“We as seniors don’t have as many people to come out and see us,” he said. “We need more help.”

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 478-744-4382.

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