The Optage commissary kitchen is a hive of activity as employees and volunteers assemble over a million meals for older adults across Minnesota each year. Following the recent passing of employee Rene Lozada, the Optage team was touched when his children, Reneellen (Ren) and Raynel (Ray) called to say they wanted to volunteer in loving memory of their father.
Rene, a beloved member of the Optage team, passed away suddenly, leaving a noticeable hole in the otherwise tight-knit group. He came to the United States in 2011 as a part of an international recruiting program and served as a member of the PHS culinary team. His children said, “We want to do a volunteer day at Optage in December to celebrate Papa’s first Christmas in Heaven. Through us, Papa could say goodbye to his coworkers.”
Rene is known for his optimism, loyalty and hard working spirit. His daughter Ren explains that although he had a quiet personality, he impacted those around him in a special way. She says his coworkers were like his family, which inspired the idea to volunteer. “We wanted to affect others in a good way and attribute it to our Papa,” said Ren.
Rene’s son Ray says that he chose to volunteer because he wanted to understand why his father loved going to work. “All of the people here are like family and have fun,” said Ray, looking around as chatter and laughter from Optage staff spread through the kitchen.
The pair gladly volunteered their time assembling meals at the same station their father worked, sharing stories and laughing together. A coworker described how special it was to look up at Rene’s old work station and see his family there, his memory still very much alive.
Approximately 70% of meals prepared by Optage Senior Dining go to low-income seniors and volunteers are a big part of keeping the fire burning! There are many opportunities to volunteer. Visit our website to find out how you can make a difference.