Community Builder: Woman serves seniors through free luncheon for years

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For eight years, on the first Tuesday of every month, seniors across Richland and Lexington counties have a place to go for food, fun, and fellowship.

It's called "Tuesdays with Friends," and it's hosted by Beth Shalom Synagogue.

"I know we have people in there that look forward to this every month," said Laney Cohen, who volunteers at the luncheon each month.

Cohen works full-time at the Jewish Community Center on Flora Drive as the Jewish Family Services Director, but she always comes to the free luncheon which is organized by her friend, Minda Miller.

"It's the true meaning of community in that room right now," said Cohen.  "It's amazing."

Each month the room is filled with well over 100 people. Cohen says not all of the seniors that attend are Jewish, but adds Miller's vision for the luncheon is about bringing people together.

"They came to her with a vision and she took it and she ran with it, and this is her passion and it's just been amazing," said Cohen.

Now running 8 years strong, each luncheon always provides a variety of entertainment.

"We try to make it more unique and special because a lot of the seniors who are homebound or in assisted-living don't have the ability to take advantage of what's out there in our community," said Miller who serves as program director for the group

For Minda, the luncheon is personal. Her in-laws, David and Cela Miller, were both Holocaust survivors who met in a displaced persons camp in Germany after the war. Beth Shalom sponsored them moving to the U.S. After Cela's passing, Minda says the luncheons were a special place for David.

"He loved it, and he loved people, so he was able to come for the first few years of the program and what I guess keeps me motivated would be his spirit here," said Miller. "I really do it in memory of David and Cela Miller and my parents Dora and Herman Lieberman. It makes me feel close to them, especially David."

Which is why when this Tuesdays with Friends luncheon started off with this surprise from Matt Mungo of Mungo Homes Minda was especially touched.

"Linda, thank you very much for all that you do," said Mungo as he handed Miller a Community Builder hard hat. "This is yours," he added, and was met by loud cheers from the crowd.

"This is a total surprise! I am overwhelmed and humbled," said Miller. "I've seen you on TV doing this before but I never thought it would be me."

But the crowd of seniors and volunteers couldn't agree more about our latest honoree, and they're grateful to always spend Tuesdays with Friends -- like Minda. Miller tells us the $1,000 donation from the Michael J. Mungo Foundation will go right back to Tuesday with Friends, which relies on donations to provide the free entertainment and meals for seniors.

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