What do you think of when you hear meal site or nutrition center? A place for poor old folks or widows and widowers to get a meal?

A bunch of old guys and old ladies and you think, "That's no place I want to go or even be seen there." Did you hear the meals were tasteless and cold or frozen meals like the ones you can buy at the supermarket? Wrong.

Yes, we are seniors and many of us live alone because we lost our spouses, but there are many singles and couples attending also. I hope to tell you just what a great place the Hays Senior Center really is.

First, I want to give a short history of the Older American Act of 1965 enacted into federal law in response to needs expressed by the 1961 White House Conference on Aging. Funds were authorized to support separate state agencies on aging to establish local community programs to provide social services to older persons.

In 1968, funds were appropriated to study nutritional needs of the elderly. In 1972, funds were authorized for local community nutrition programs.

In 1973, states were divided into Planning and Service Areas with an Area Agency on Aging designated to administer the plans.

Someone kept great scrapbooks; that's where I found this information on when the Hays Meal Site started. On Jan. 14, 1974, the first Hays Meal Site was in friendship hall at the First United Methodist Church in Hays.

Meals were served at noon Monday through Friday to residents age 60 and older. Following the meal, there was a planned program. Example: The first week, they had Dr. Calvin Harbin, mayor Henry Marcotte, Leora Stroup, Dr. G.W. Tomanek, Dr. Ralph Coder and Ellis County Clerk Richard Schmidt.

The meal site program was well accepted. As many as 50 people came each day. There was no charge for the meals. The per meal cost was 75 cents and participants could donate if they wanted to.

In January 1977, Hays Meal Site celebrated its third year. They were now at the Hays Senior Center building, 204 E. Eighth.

The Senior Center and Meal Site had to leave the Eighth street location in 2009. It now is located on Old U.S. Highway 40.

There are 22 senior centers in northwest Kansas. The Ellis meal site has a kitchen and their meals are prepared there each day.

Now, 38 years later at the annual meeting, it was reported the average number of meals served per month is 1,647, and 1,108 meals are delivered to homes each month. That number is impressive, but can be increased if more people ages 60 and older would take advantage of this great program.

I visited with many people getting information for this story. I want to give special credit to Jim and Mary Marvin. The Marvins enjoyed the many years they delivered meals. They could be depended on to drive to Russell, where the meals are prepared, to pick them up, then stop at Gorham, Walker and Victoria on their way back to Hays. They did this five days a week, 12 weeks a year for nearly seven years. We thank them for their dedication to this service for the meal site. Mary Marvin said they enjoyed every minute of the job, but due to physical problems, they retired.

We are served well-balanced meals to meet nutritional needs of seniors. The menu is planned for an entire month, so you can pick and choose the days to come. I have found all the meals are good. The hot food is hot and tasty, salads fresh and desserts varied.

Those able to line up to get their trays do so; however, the trays are taken to those not able to stand in line.

One important rule: You must tell manager Alice Herrman when you are coming by noon the day before.

Occasionally, there is a special meal -- Sunday potluck dinner or a morning brunch the day before holidays.

For those 60 and older, the requested meal contribution is $3. People younger than 60 must pay the full cost of the meal, which is $5.50 at the site and $5.75 for home delivery.

Now I'm going to mention some of the many things you will find at Hays Senior Center in addition to meals. The center has a defibrillator received through a grant from United Way.

We draw for a senior of the month -- their table gets to go first and the honoree can wear the crown. Those with birthdays get their pictures on a bulletin board. Blood pressure checks are Tuesday mornings. Activities include gospel singing, bingo, billiards, pinochle, puzzles and more.

There is no dress code. Gents can come in suits and ties or overalls or anything in between. Ladies can dress up or be casual. How you dress is up to you. I just dress comfortable.

There is a large parking lot, no steps and a revolving door.

The doors open at 9 a.m. People come early to play cards, play pool, do puzzles and visit. Meals are served at noon following announcements, prayer and flag salute. After lunch, you can stay as long as you like.

I've met many wonderful people, made new friends, shared ideas, and enjoy coming to the meal site when I'm in Hays. I have become addicted to jigsaw puzzles.

Don't form your opinion about the meal site until you come and find out what it's like firsthand. Remember the program is age, not income, based.

Give me a call at (785) 726-4432. I'd love to have you come as my guest.

Opal Flinn is a member of the Generations advisory committee.