We have a duty to provide a safe and peaceful environment in our building and on our property, inclusive to all. We are a senior center offering many activities and programs for elderly and disabled persons on San Juan Island. As a private non-profit organization, we rely on volunteers and charitable gifts from the community. We have long sponsored a lunch program, now three times a week, in a partnership with San Juan County and Whatcom Council on Aging’s “Meals on Wheels and More” program.
Over the past 8 years, we have experienced a slow decline in participation in the meals program even though the number of seniors on our island has been steadily rising. In looking for reasons why, we discovered that many of the incoming seniors were uncomfortable with an introductory ceremony where the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer were recited. Consequently we discontinued this practice in April in an effort to be inclusive to all.
Some of our diners were upset by this change, including some veterans who felt we were disrespecting the flag or our country. We assure all this is not the case and we quickly responded by adding a number of patriotic occasions to our calendar and incorporating the pledge to show our patriotism and our gratitude for those who serve or have served to defend and protect our country. In the last two months, we have done so for Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, and the 4th of July.
Our original decision was based on inclusivity not disrespect. We are committed to coming together to find ways to honor our organization, members, staff, volunteers, community and country. Therefore, at our last Operations Committee meeting we agreed to reconsider our original decision and are currently in the process of doing so. In the meantime, diners wishing to recite the pledge before lunch are welcome to do so at 11:30. All others are invited to arrive after 11:30.