2016-12-25 / Insight

Special lunch planned at Stonegate

BY NICHOLAS PUGLIESE
810-452-2601 • npugliese@mihomepaper.com


Dolores McLellan shows off her elaborate Christmas decorations. Staff at Stonegate referred to Dolores’s room as a “miniature Bronner’s,” and notes that for Dolores, Christmas starts on Nov. 1 and doesn’t end until after the New Year. 
Photos by Nicholas Pugliese Dolores McLellan shows off her elaborate Christmas decorations. Staff at Stonegate referred to Dolores’s room as a “miniature Bronner’s,” and notes that for Dolores, Christmas starts on Nov. 1 and doesn’t end until after the New Year. Photos by Nicholas Pugliese LAPEER — Christmas is a lot of things for a lot of people, but no matter whom you ask about holiday traditions observed, one constant that will be present in any answer is food. Whether it’s an enormous ham served surrounded by family and friends, or a turkey deep-fried on the back deck in the bitter December cold, most of us have a food-centric holiday tradition that they follow. And for the residents of Stonegate Health Campus in Lapeer, these traditions might be more challenging to maintain. Most residents are seniors well into their eighth decade with adult children that are scattered across the state, country, and sometimes even the globe, and for them, holiday feasts with family can be enjoyed only in memory and old pictures.


Eric Schwark, director of food services (right), begins the preparations for Stonegate’s annual Christmas lunch with the help of dining room service associate Robert Gregory. Residents will have several menu options to choose from, all prepared in-house by Schwark’s staff. 
Photo by Nicholas Pugliese Eric Schwark, director of food services (right), begins the preparations for Stonegate’s annual Christmas lunch with the help of dining room service associate Robert Gregory. Residents will have several menu options to choose from, all prepared in-house by Schwark’s staff. Photo by Nicholas Pugliese “I remember butterscotch and chocolate pies, giant veggie medleys and piles of corn and beans,” said resident Dolores McLennan. Dolores is 85 and originally from Davison. “We had a farm on Potter Road in the ’60s, and we had all our kids and us, and wives and their families.” Wearing a Christmasthemed ring on each finger of each hand and a Santa Claus-emblazoned wristwatch, she gestures at an aerial photo of the farm in a frame hanging from the wall. “We always had the holidays there, but now everyone’s spread across the country.”

Dolores’s family is a military family, through and through. Her husband of 60 years served in the U.S. Air Force, one of her sons is a retired Marine currently working in Germany as a military contractor, and her grandson is currently stationed in Qatar. “I don’t know what they do for Christmas dinner in Qatar,” she said.

Eric Schwark, director of food services at Stonegate, has his own holiday food plans. With the help of his staff, who mostly volunteered to work on Christmas Day, he’s planned and prepared an enormous Christmas lunch.

“We’re going to have sliced spiral ham, pot roast, mashed potato, warm peach crisp and other selections,” Schwark said. Recently promoted to the position of director after working as the assistant in Trilogy’s Shelby Township health facility, he’s come to Lapeer’s Stonegate with the desire to make the holiday special for the residents. “I think it’s special, and special for them. I think it makes them feel welcomed,” Schwark said as he pops in and out of the walk-in fridge, getting ready for the evening’s dinner, “and it’s good for them, especially if their families come. It makes them feel special.” Christmas is certainly in the air at Stonegate, with the scent of gingerbread wafting through the halls and holiday standards, old and new, echoing warmly down the labyrinthine hallways of the facility.

Schwark must be mindful of some residents’ dietary restrictions but he anticipates that even for those with special requests, this year’s Christmas lunch will be special. “Some people have a no-sodium diet, so no added salt, some have a limit on liquids,” Schwark said. “But it shouldn’t be a problem Sunday.” Schwark and his staff are planning a special feast on New Year’s Day as well.

“I hate Halloween, but from the day after to at least New Year’s, it’s Christmas to me,” Dolores said. “So many memories, it’s the best time of year.” Her room is small but comfortably furnished, and every open and available space features a Christmas decoration, ranging from statues of Santa to a four-foot tree bursting with lights and ornaments. Why does she hate Halloween? “Because it’s not Christmas.” While Dolores smiled as she looked over the upcoming Christmas lunch menu, running her finger down the list and nodding approvingly, she paused at the listing of carrots. “No, this won’t do,” she said with a laugh. “I hate carrots, why is it always carrots?”

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