Senior center offers plate-sized pancakes at 'Ye Old Breakfast Shoppe'

Feb 23, 2018

It's a cool Thursday morning in February, but at Rochester's Senior Center, the air smells like maple syrup and chatter is all around. In the dining area, a group of volunteers are taking orders, frying bacon, washing dishes, cleaning tables—and serving up pancakes as big as a plate.

The volunteers are at the center every weekday morning, cooking up a storm as part of the center's "Ye Olde Breakfast Shoppe." The daily breakfast began several years ago, as a collaboration between the Friends of the Rochester Senior Center and the Rochester Lions Club.

The idea is novel; no other senior center in Massachusetts runs a similar program.

The breakfast—a full menu offers omelettes, pancakes, French toast, breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, bagels, muffins and homefries—is cooked fresh every day.

In the mood for homemade French toast and coffee? Breakfast runs from 7-9 a.m.

Anyone can attend. "It's not meant for seniors, it's for anyone who wants a home-cooked meal and to support the Senior Center," said Lions Club member Deb Grassi. "People bring their kids, we see them around here frequently."

The breakfast serves about 40 people per day during the warmer months, said Council on Aging Director Sharon Lally. In the winter, the volunteers still see an average of 25 people every day.

Prices remain low. The most expensive item on the menu—a choice of three pancakes, three omelettes or three slices of French toast, topped with bacon, sausage or ham—runs at $5.50.

The volunteers, she said, are incredible at stretching pennies to provide as much food as possible, Lally said.

Every penny spent on a meal goes toward funding programs at the senior center.

"Fifty percent of the funds go directly to us through the Friends of the Council on Aging," Lally explained. "The other fifty percent goes to the Rochester Lions Club, and they're very generous to us."

Grassi estimated that 95 percent of all funds raised go directly to the Senior Center, with only a small amount held back to purchase food and cooking equipment.

Currently, seniors in Rochester who are part of such a program are bused to similar facilities in Fairhaven or Dartmouth. Lally would like to eventually create Rochester center, though, particularly as town demographics shift toward an older population.

The center is still far in the distance; Lally estimated that construction would probably cost around $300,000, of which the center currently has about $150,000.