Meet Bernadette. She helps nourish the lives of Central Oregon seniors every day.

Bernadette Handley is the Director of Nutrition Services for the Council on Aging (CoA). For years, she’s been nourishing seniors’ hearts, minds, and souls. Bernadette finds providing for her clients the most rewarding thing a person can do.

Bernadette, what are the most positive aspects of working at the CoA?

Having the chance to honor seniors every day. We accept every person that walks through our doors. No matter where they are right now in their life, they are always welcome. It just fills my heart to help folks. I believe feeding older adults nourishes their bodies and souls.

Can you share any stories about clients that left an unforgettable impression on you?

I think back to one woman who had been dining at the CoA for many years. She had faced many challenges over the years, and the agency supported her with various services, including meals. One afternoon I took the time to guide her through a problem until it was resolved. She stopped at my office the next day and handed me a zip lock bag full of money. She had emptied her piggy bank and wanted to pay it forward. She asked me to hold onto the money until I met someone in need. She assured me that I would know when that happened.

Were you ever able to pay it forward by sharing the donation with someone who needed it?

Oh yes. Weeks passed, and low and behold, a man landed in Bend who was houseless. He arrived by bus and walked to Shepherd’s House for an interview. When he walked by our building, he knocked on the door, inquiring if we could assist him. He had no food or shelter or money for the night, so we fed him, and the staff at CoA connected him to an agency that provided a tent, sleeping bag, and water. I told him about the client who had wanted to pay it forward and handed him the zip lock bag full of money. He was beside himself. That night I texted the client that gave the money to tell her the good news. She was ecstatic. The next day he called me to say thank you and to let me know there was a spot at Shepherds House for him.

Bernadette Handley (right)

You mentioned you had a “goal” when asked about your service to older adults?

My goal is not just to be of service to older adults but to give older adults a chance to be of service themselves. Whether a volunteer or one receiving services, the older adults we connect with need to feel valued and respected for who they are and what they do.  If we can offer that opportunity, it brings value and joy to their day.      

Can you share any stories that diners have told you?

Their stories are amazing. Pre-covid, when we provided in-person dining, we heard their stories and had more than just a name to go with a face. Right now, we only get to see a snapshot as they pull up in their car wearing a mask. We have veterans that served in wars and others that retired from the armed forces. We have folks that have been living by themselves for years and others that just relocated here.      

One couple that dines with us shared their story with me recently. He was a truck driver and would stop at one of our meals when he traveled his regular route. She just happened to be having a cup of coffee at that meal service when he stopped. As they sat at the counter, they struck up a conversation and started their long-distance relationship. They would arrange to meet when he traveled through town until they got married and moved to Bend. Thanks to the CoA, these two diners met at our community dining program and found love and companionship in their 80’s. I wish I had time to know everyone’s stories; all those moments are important. That’s really what it is all about.

We are grateful for Bernadette’s support, making it possible for homebound and older adults to receive nutritious meals. To learn more about we are doing visit to learn how the CoA is committed to keeping seniors safe, fed, and connected—and how you can help.

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