Submitted by Mullis Center Executive Committee
Rita Weisbrod, Stephen Shubert, Nancy Geist and Carolyn Adler
For the record: The Mullis Center and all of us on the board personally have great respect and gratitude for the service and sacrifice made by our veterans in defense of our country. We honor the flag and are developing a plan to restore it on the Mullis Center grounds. We are committed to saying the Pledge of Allegiance at our Meals Program lunches on certain patriotic occasions, two of them in the past month (Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day).
Nonetheless, in the past six weeks or so, there has been an organized effort by American Legion Post 163 to have a group come to the senior lunches, conduct the Pledge of Allegiance and then leave, most without actually having lunch. They have organized a “Bring Back the Pledge” campaign to coerce the center to have the pledge ceremony at all meals, a policy that we discontinued in March. Our reasons: We have seen a reduction of 30 percent in lunch participation over the past eight years, while the island’s population of seniors has continued to grow substantially. We understand that change is difficult for many people and regret this change has upset some at the lunches. Our concern is that we need to serve younger seniors and newcomers as well as older seniors. We need to adjust to the changing lifestyles among younger seniors; they do not care for ceremony, they live busy lives compared to seniors in the past and are often working at least part-time. We feel we cannot let habits of the past be the enemy of the future. Center programs cannot survive without extending a welcome to all seniors. That is our mission.
About the legion’s current “Bring Back the Pledge” campaign: It appears to have adopted the current political practice of publicly engaging in personal attacks and distracting people from the main point. The main point is: While pledges are often a part of some meetings, they are not really part of a dining experience. If you don’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance before meals at home or at restaurants, then it is not appropriate at the center’s meals program. It’s just lunch.
We ask all San Juan Islanders for your help if you believe we need to make the Mullis Center welcoming to everyone and allowing the county’s meals program, largely funded by public money, to concentrate on providing nutritious meals to ALL seniors and the disabled. We offer them lunch — hold the ceremony — for donations only, inviting others to join us for a modest at-cost price of $7. How can you help? If you are over 60 or disabled, join the Mullis Center or come to lunch — the best salad bar in town. Learn about our programs and get involved as a volunteer. To join the Mullis Center, costs are $25 for one person; $40 for a couple; send your check to P.O. Box 684, Friday Harbor or stop by the center at 589 Nash St. For islanders of any age: You are welcome to come to lunch too! Or join us as a volunteer — at our first Sunday of the month pancake breakfast, which supports the meals program with its profits — or at any of the other jobs, large and small, that make the center an asset to this community. Call 360-378-2677 and ask Debbie or Anna how you can help.