(Posted Sept. 14, 2020)
Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
After being closed to the public for six months, the Madison County Senior Citizens Center was prepared to reopen next week, however questions about testing have put those plans on hold.
“We had every intention of opening on Sept. 21. We had our PPE (personal protective equipment) and cleaning supplies. We rearranged the seating in the cafe to space things out. We had our signage ready to go and Plexiglass up,” said Misty Bradley, executive director. “We thought we were ready with everything they’d been telling us we needed to do.”
In late August, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that senior centers and adult day care facilities could reopen on Sept. 21 as long as they put COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols in place. Bradley said the rules for testing staff members and volunteers were unclear at the time of the announcement.
On Sept. 11, during a webinar hosted by the Ohio Department on Aging, Bradley and other senior center leaders from around the state learned they must test every employee and volunteer every other week.
“They told us we were going to get help with testing and testing kits, but they didn’t say who was going to be paying for it,” Bradley said.
Until the state provides clarification, the senior center will remain closed, she said. With 15 staff members and 10 volunteers, the center would struggle to cover the cost of regular testing, she explained.
Had it been able to reopen on Sept. 21, the center was prepared to offer limited activities, such as art classes, yoga and walking–programs for which physical distancing is easily achievable. The center was prepared to reopen its cafe for seated dining with a new occupancy limit of 40 people at a time. The facility also planned to reopen its adult day care program.
Bradley said she and her staff were looking forward to opening the center, a hub of activity for seniors around the county. She said she worries about the impact of isolation on the county’s older population.
“I’m really concerned for the seniors in our community. To put things on pause again is frustrating,” she said.
While the reopening is in limbo, the center is still finding ways to serve seniors.
“We never shut down our transportation services,” Bradley said.
Even after state orders closed the center’s doors on March 23, the center has continued to provide area seniors with transportation to medical appointments, grocery stores, banks, and, when they reopened, hair salons.
The cafe switched from sit-down dining to drive-up lunches, available for pickup outside the center between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The cost is $5. Orders can be placed by calling the center by 9:30 a.m. the day of pickup. Anyone, regardless of age, is welcome.
Soon, the center will offer those meals at no charge, as well as make free deliveries to those who cannot make it to the center for pickup. The center received $20,000 in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) funds to use for its cafe operations.
Starting Oct. 1, Madison County residents who are 60 or older can sign up to receive the meals for free. There is no income requirement. The program is scheduled to start on Oct. 12. Pickup meals will be available the same days and times as they are now. Meal delivery will be available once a week and to all parts of the county. Those who don’t sign up can still pick up meals at the center for $5 or a donation.
The center also received $10,000 in CARES money to use to help area seniors with housing emergencies, such as payment of utility bills, rent or mortgage. Participants must provide paperwork showing notice of pending utility disconnection or eviction. The center will put a cap on each payment assistance in order to help as many people as possible with the limited funds.
“Even though we’ve been shut down, we want people to know we are still answering their calls. We’re still looking for ways to help,” Bradley said.
The Madison County Senior Citizens Center is located at 280 W. High St. in London. For more information, call (740) 852-3001 or visit www.mcsenior.org. The center also can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/mcsenior.org.