By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN “Are you going to be able to eat all that? I might have to come over and help you,” Winsted Lions Club member George Schulenberg teased Betty Hatrick, eyeing up her plate of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and toast.
“Whatever,” Hatrick responded lightheartedly.
Hatrick was among a group of residents from St. Mary’s Care Center in Winsted who ate breakfast at The Pantry Wednesday morning, a monthly tradition that began more than a decade ago.
It started with volunteer Joan Genty, who was asked by St. Mary’s activity director Michele Muller if she’d be interested in helping.
“She’s been donating her time for a long time,” Lion Dennis Rehmann said.
Recently, Genty handed her leadership role to the Lions Club, but she still helps out.
“It’s better than just having one person,” Genty said. “The Lions are really doing a good job.”
Lion Mavis Weber is the main organizer, taking care of contacting volunteers and keeping track of breakfast order receipts.
“We usually do this on a Wednesday morning,” Weber said, adding that Muller sets the exact date depending on the schedule at St. Mary’s.
All residents who are feeling up to traveling are invited.
“Wheelchairs, walkers, anybody,” Genty said, adding that even those who aren’t able to eat independently are welcome.
Residents start boarding the St. Mary’s bus (which includes a wheelchair lift) at about 8 a.m. They ride across town to The Pantry, and volunteers help them safely exit.
The group size varies depending on the weather, and sometimes, the bus makes a second trip to pick up additional residents.
“A lot of them don’t like to go out if the weather is bad or if there’s a lot of snow,” Genty said.
Residents do their best to make it, though, as it’s something they look forward to for weeks.
“They just love coming here,” Genty said, explaining that it’s an opportunity for relaxation and conversation in a fun setting away from home.
Plus, there’s the food giant pancakes, all kinds of eggs, coffee, and more.
Genty said she remembers one fellow years ago who used to order “everything.”
“He loved the breakfasts,” she recalled.
Residents at the June breakfast included Betty Hatrick, Harlan Kieser, Margaret Heath, Ross Nelson, Florentine Lachermeier, and two men named Raymond Swanson (one goes by Raymond P. Swanson, while the other is known as Raymond A. Swanson.)
To become a member of the Lions, contact President Roger Grotbo at (320) 485-4834.