At long last, Senior Center is ready to reopen

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Members of the cafeteria staff at the Madison County Senior Citizens Center dish up turkey-splits for one of the center’s last curbside lunches. On May 17, the cafe will return to indoor and carryout dining as the center opens to the public for the first time since shutting down last March due to the pandemic. Pictured are: (from left) Patsy Bricker, Luther Dolby, Steve Wehrs, Tom Lawrence and Gayle Summers.

(Posted May 12, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The Madison County Senior Citizens Center will reopen to the public on May 17. It has been a long time coming–14 months, in fact.

“They are ready to get back to their activities and friends and some kind of normal routine,” said Misty Bradley, executive director, about the center’s patrons. “These are active, healthy seniors. The reality of it is, they’ve been doing things; they just haven’t been able to come here to do them. Now, they can again.”

The senior center closed its doors to the public on March 23 last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization continued to offer transportation, deliver meals, and sell lunches for curbside pickup, but all other activities ceased due to pandemic restrictions.

Bradley said the staff is excited to reopen the building. They will reintroduce activities slowly.

“We won’t be doing all of our activities right away. Some are harder to do than others with social distancing, but we will do cards and some exercise programs. The cafe will be open, and people can come in and sit down to eat their meals,” she said.

The cafe will feature limited seating at each table, and diners will receive everything they need on trays, rather than picking up their own silverware and the like. Signs on the floor leading up to the food pickup line will promote social distancing.

During the closure, the center made other improvements related to pandemic safety, including installation of new windows, many of which can open, to further improve ventilation, and the addition of touchless fixtures in the restrooms.

“As bad as last year was, we were able to apply for grant funding so we’d be able to do these updates to the center,” Bradley said, noting much of the funding came through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. “These are things that have been on our wish list that we just didn’t have the budget for.”

Another new feature is a 24×56-foot shelter house with picnic benches, completed in March. Local businesses and organizations covered the entire cost of the project. The outdoor space provides more programming area and helps the center meet the Ohio Department of Health’s recommendations.

“We’re focusing on what the governor said–open slowly and do as much outside as you can. That’s why we’re excited about the shelter house,” Bradley said.

A new shelter house, completed in March, will allow the Madison County Senior Citizens Center to offer more programming and an alternative space for some of its existing programming.

The first official program in the shelter house is a May 25 raptor demonstration led by representatives from the Glen Helen Nature Preserve out of Yellow Springs. Bradley said movies, cards, line dancing, and painting classes also can take place there. Soon, she hopes to add shuffleboard and horseshoe pits, as requested by center members.

Working with the Madison Soil and Water Conservation District and the local Pheasants Forever chapter, the senior center plans to spruce up the area behind the shelter house and along the creek by installing pollinator plots sown with wildflowers that attract bees and butterflies.

“What a perfect area to help the environment,” Bradley said. “And once it gets going, it will be a nice visual.”

The center has scheduled a couple of short, in-state trips, both taking place primarily outdoor and with limited attendance–the Groovy Plant Ranch in Marengo this month and the Serpent Mound Historical Site in Peebles next month.

The center has changed its protocols when it comes to participation in programs at the center. Visitors are now required to enter the main entrance and check in at the front office where the staff will check their temperature and ask questions about any symptoms they might have and their vaccination status.

“We’re not trying to put anyone on the spot with the question about vaccination. There is no judgement; we’re just collecting information for contract tracing if it becomes necessary,” Bradley explained.

The Madison County Senior Center has placed social distancing markers on the floor in the cafe in preparation for the center’s reopening to the public on May 17.

The new protocols are required by the Ohio Department of Health. What isn’t required is for all staff members to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but Bradley said she is happy to report the entire staff has been vaccinated.

“We’re pleased with that. It wasn’t necessary, but we really wanted the center to open back up, so we did what we thought was in the best interest of the center to protect both our staff and our members,” she said.

Bradley hopes that by mid-summer pandemic conditions will have improved enough for the center to fully return to its regular programming. Until then, she asks for patience.

“The main thing is keeping people safe,” she said. “We want to open back up, but the most important thing is we want to stay open. We can’t do that unless everybody follows the rules, and we do what we need to do for a little while longer.”

The Madison County Senior Citizens Center is located at 280 W. High St., London, and online at www.mcsenior.org. For more information, call (740) 852-3001.

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