Breakfast eaters rave: 'Hats off to the chefs'


Monday mornings at the South County Senior Center wouldn't be the same without Marie Lomax and her sister-in-law Chrystal Clements.

The two women from Edgewater cook and serve the first meal of the day for tables full of men dubbed The Breakfast Club.

And they do it for free.

Last month, Mrs. Lomax, 66, and Mrs. Clements, 68, were honored by the center for their volunteer efforts to establish the breakfast program.

Eight months ago, Mrs. Lomax and a friend, Helen Hopkins, approached the center's activities director with an idea. Instead of a precooked, packaged meal like the lunch offered at the South County center -- and most centers -- why not serve something fresh and hot?

The idea was quickly adopted by the center and money was set aside for the program.

"We were trying to bring in the senior men who drink coffee and chat all morning at the restaurants in town," said assistant director Shirley Miller. "This program gave us the perfect chance to do that. And we did."

Mrs. Hopkins moved on to other things and Mrs. Clements took her place in front of the stove.

She said she's always liked to cook and spent much of her life cooking for a large family. "This is just my latest family," she said.

Preparation for the feast begins two or three days before, when the two women decide what to cook on Monday. "It could be omelets. It could be French toast or a Western Special," Mrs. Lomax said. "There's no menu. Whatever we feel like cooking, we cook and that's all."

Breakfast Club members wander in around 8:30 a.m. and are greeted by Mrs. Lomax and Mrs. Clements, coffee cups in hand, and "always a smile on their faces," Ms. Miller said.

The men -- clutching coffee cups and cigars -- offer a cheer: "Hats off to the chefs!"

"I enjoy every minute of it," said Mrs. Lomax, who conceded she usually doesn't like to cook. "It's fun. And I know there's a need for it."

The price of the meal varies and is set by the chefs. Breakfast costs $1 or $1.50, but never more than that. Every penny collected goes toward the next breakfast.

Although breakfast is their specialty, both women stick around to help out during the lunch rush.

"You can always count on them," Ms. Miller said. "They're polite and have a happy demeanor. Everyone loves them."

Mrs. Lomax and Mrs. Clements are but two of the more than 60 volunteers who help keep the center running.

"All of our volunteers gladly do anything we ask, from typing to answering phones, to cooking breakfasts," Ms. Miller said.

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