“I’ve always been a people person,” Jeanne Wafford said. “I love being around people, visiting with them, helping out.” This is obvious from her commitment to the center, where she has volunteered for about 20 years as a Meals on Wheels driver, bus driver for people without transportation, in the office, and as the “official” greeter for lunchtime meals in the dining room.
“In fact, she saved us,” said Josie Newport, Food Services Coordinator. “The dining room had been closed for more than a year,” she said. “In that time, the management staff had completely changed so there was no one who knew how to organize the check in/donation process when we reopened in July. Until Jeanne showed up.”
Jeanne had been the dining room greeter for years before the pandemic shutdowns. When Jeanne arrived for lunch that first day she was able to quickly get the desk organized with the sign in sheets and the donation box. However, one thing was missing. There is a custom three-sided wooden screen that shields the donation box from view. “It’s important because we consider any amount of money paid for lunch as a donation,” Jeanne explained. “While a $5 donation is suggested to help subsidize the cost, there is no requirement to pay anything for lunch at the Redmond Senior Center. What’s important is that people are coming, enjoying a healthy meal, and socializing again.”
So, they improvised until the screen was found tucked away in a closet a few weeks later. Now it’s back in its place of honor on the check-in table, along with Jeanne signing people in on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Jeanne was born in Bend but lived on a 2,000-acre ranch in Silver Lake before her family moved to Fort Abbot (now Sunriver). After she married, she lived for many years on the southern Oregon Coast, raising her family, working as a teacher’s aide and a nurse’s aide, and helping her husband run a small business. When it came time to retire, she wanted to return to Central Oregon. “I was so tired of the cold and fog,” she said. “I love the warmer weather and the sunshine here.”
She almost immediately began volunteering with the Senior Center, often “working” from 9 am in the morning to locking the doors in the afternoon. “But on March 13, 2020, we were told to go home and not come back the next day. That lasted for more than a year. I wanted to come back to work so badly but had to be patient and make do.”
Jeanne spent her year, reading, praying, watching TV, working puzzle books, and socially distanced visiting with other tenants at her apartment building from her small deck. “Now I’m so happy to be visiting with my old friends here,” she said. “I just want more of them to know we’re open and to come back to lunch and the other programs that are starting up again. I’ll be happy to say ‘hello’ Mondays and Wednesdays.”