SOUTH BEND — Loretta Walls loved Pierceton.
She was born and raised in east Warsaw. Walls adored the people and was very involved in the community throughout her life. She passed away in October 2016, but her legacy lives on because of her generosity. She left $150,000 to the Pierceton Nutrition Site, a favorite local gathering spot of her late mother-in-law, Joann Walls, and other seniors of the Pierceton community, for more than 35 years.
To fully understand the significance of Walls’ generous gift, it’s important to know how the site started. REAL Services, a non-profit organization who fights for independence, dignity, and strength of the communities they serve, started in 1966 by founder Les Fox in South Bend. In 1973, REAL Services launched nutrition programs designed to provide low-cost nutritious meals as well as recreational activities to seniors throughout Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaPorte, Marshall, and St. Joseph counties. These sites promote better health among people 60 years and older through good nutrition and a sense of community. The Pierceton Nutrition Site opened in 1983 at 205 N. 1st St., in the Senior Center, adjacent to the Pierceton Police Department.
The more than 35 nutrition sites in the five northern Indiana counties receive funding from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration through the Older Americans Act and the United States Department of Agriculture.
“In early 2018, we learned that our budgets were being drastically reduced and were put in the unfortunate position of having to close some of our smaller sites,” said George Hawthorne, director of nutrition and transportation at REAL Services.
The reduction in funding meant that as of June 30, the Pierceton Nutrition Site was shuttered after serving area seniors meals and providing camaraderie since the early 1980s.
Soon after the site closed, REAL Services received word of Walls’ gift and was able to use these dollars to re-open the Pierceton Nutrition Site.
“My Aunt Loretta would be delighted that her gift has allowed the site to re-open,” said Toni Copenhaver, Walls’ niece. “Just knowing that the seniors in the Pierceton area can enjoy a hot meal and companionship would mean the world to her.”
The seniors who rely on the Pierceton Nutrition Site for their meals and sometimes competitive card games of Manipulation and Euchre are grateful that the site is opened again. Carolyn Harrell has been coming to the site for 20 years and picks up Jo Wells on her way to the site each day.
“You might come in as a stranger the first time, but that won’t last long as you’ll meet many new friends,” said Harrell.
“Loretta Walls left a legacy to the entire Pierceton community,” said Becky Zaseck, president and CEO of REAL Services. “Her generous gift will provide nutritious meals and companionship to elderly for years to come. We are humbled and grateful for her thoughtful foresight.”
The tight-knit group missed each other when the site closed and realized how important it was to interact with their friends. Thanks to the generosity of the late Loretta Walls, they can continue to enjoy all that the Pierceton Nutrition Site offers.
“My aunt was so well-loved,” said Copenhaver. “It is wonderful that she can be remembered this way, and to give back to the community she truly loved for years to come.”