Local leader boosts senior center outreach program


Once a month, members of the Palm Bay Senior Center Outreach Committee gather to pack groceries from their storage closet to be donated to two area food pantries for distribution. Maddy Haft, left, Barbara Roberts, Richard Heap and Jackie Tower pack groceries on a busy day.


The Palm Bay Senior Center is known locally for its socializing, large variety of activities, bingo sessions and travel trips.

Not many know about the center’s outreach committee headed by Barbara Roberts, a dynamo who works with 12 dedicated committee members.

“We collect food and have a food pantry,” Roberts said. “We don’t distribute the food from our pantry. We give it to two different sites — St. Joseph Catholic Church food pantry on Babcock Street and Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church on Malabar Road. Once a month, we pack it all up in food bags and divide between the two. They come by and pick it up.”

Last year, the center donated 7½ tons of food to the two pantries combined. It is a healthy food pantry — even Friday bingo players bring contributions for the food pantry.

But the outreach is more.

A group of women from a local Lutheran church takes donated yarn and creates lap pads for the wheelchair bound, bringing boxes back to the center filled with hats, stuffed animals, booties and just about anything knitted or crocheted for the children at Camp Boggy Creek.

Outreach also supports the South Brevard Sharing Center, the Genesis House Shelter, Vietnam and All Veterans of Brevard transitional housing and Daily Bread.

“We go to the same-day surgery centers in Melbourne and collect all their socks they save for us and usually get 300 pairs a month to give to Daily Bread and CITA Rescue Mission. We take them home and sew or patch and wash them all.”

Roberts moved to the area from New Orleans where she and her husband had transferred from Missouri for his job. They retired to Palm Bay because her daughter had moved here.

“We joined the senior center and everything changed. We started doing volunteer work,” Roberts said. “I started in the kitchen two full days a week. When the couple running outreach decided they were quitting, I volunteered to take over. My husband spent four years as president. I was there all the time anyway, so it made sense to take over outreach.”

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