NEGAUNEE - Olivia Sleeman and some of her fellow seniors wanted to do something different.
That's how The Potluckers group at the Negaunee Senior Citizens Center was born.
"It started out with the first group of maybe four of us," Sleeman said. "We wanted to try something different so we picked potluck with the rule nothing could be store-bought. It had to be something you cooked yourself. And it went from there."
Jaime Bedard, aka Comet, brings dishes to the table for The Potluckers at the Negaunee Senior Center earlier this month. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Went, indeed. Now on the first Friday of every month, the center is filled with the delicious aroma of a variety of foods as The Potluckers gather to lunch together.
"As more and more people got interested, we went to a plan that if you don't bring something, you can pay $5 and eat lunch," Sleeman said. "But if you don't bring something, you can't take any of the leftovers home. That's for the people who do make the dishes.
"Each month, it's just the grandest group of people," she added. "It was fun to watch it grow. It started with a few people, then a few more. It was just women at first, but now the men are part of it. Some of them make and bring the food. And it's delicious."
Sleeman pointed to Bea Parolini, one of the participants.
"Bea, he keeps coming up with some great recipes," Sleeman said. "He makes healthy foods and soups we all love.
"Every month, just about, we have something new from someone, something we haven't tried before," she said.
Helping with the meal, when possible, are the student volunteers at the center. Wearing her "Comet" nickname emblazoned on her T-shirt, Jaime Bedard helped get the food on the table for the September Potluckers lunch.
"It always smells so good when I am doing this," she said. "They really have fun with this."
Each month, The Potluckers decide on a theme. The September theme, for instance, was harvest, meaning the recipes were to include ingredients from the cooks' gardens.
"I made sauteed mushrooms," Sleeman said.
Other harvest dishes included stuffed peppers, a salad with garden tomatoes and fresh homemade dressing, a zucchini casserole and steamed carrots.
But the meal isn't just main and side dishes.
Zucchini bread and a zucchini crisp were among the table full of desserts waiting for those looking for a little something sweet to end the meal.
Sleeman is thrilled the idea has flourished at the center.
"We had 23 sign up for today's meal," she said. "We all really, really enjoy it."
The monthly Potluckers event is open to all ages, really to anyone who loves good food. Pre-registration is required by the Wednesday before the first Friday of the month meal.
And again each month, those who don't want to cook something up can participate for a $5 fee.
The theme for the October Potluckers luncheon, which will take place on Oct. 7, is ethnic dishes. After that announcement was made to the assembled Potluckers, they started to decide what to make and signed up on a list being circulated by Kristy Basolo, center coordinator.
One of the more interesting dish names for October is Italian stir fry, with those attending wondering already what is in it.
"Remember to bring your recipes to share," Basolo announced.
The November meal, set for Nov. 4 at the center, will be Thanksgiving and will include turkey.
"The camaraderie has grown since we first started this," Sleeman said. "It's nice, because everybody gets to know everybody."
For more information or to sign up for a coming meal, call the Negaunee Senior Center at 475-6266.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.