By Lasca Randels
WARSAW — The Kosciusko Community Senior Activity Center reopened last month with safety precautions in place, following a year-long shutdown during the COVID pandemic.
“With the approval of Teresa Reed from the Kosciusko County Health Department, we reopened March 8 with limitations,” Kosciusko Community Senior Services Director David Neff said.
The activity center is now open from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Each morning at 10:30 a.m., they hold a chair exercise group. Bingo is held at 1 p.m. on Thursdays. Anyone interested in attending is asked to call and reserve a spot, as they have a maximum of 30 participants at the present time.
Sponsored lunches from Millers, Mason Rehabilitation, Paddock Springs and Warsaw Meadows are now being offered on Thursdays. Lunch begins at noon, with Bingo following at 1 p.m. Reservations are required for Bingo and lunch.
Besides limiting the number of people coming in, KCSS has set up a station where temperatures are taken and documented. Everything is being sanitized and disinfected, and seating at tables is spaced out 6 feet apart.
“We’re taking every precaution we can think of. We have to be the last ones to open up because of who we serve. There are so many frail, elderly people who are among our members,” Neff said. “We’re doing the best we can in a bad situation.”
KCSS offers three major services to benefit seniors: transportation, meal delivery and the Senior Activity Center (SAC).
“All three of those have been affected by COVID, as you might expect,” Neff said.
Although Neff made the decision to close the Senior Activity Center last March, mobile meal delivery and transportation for medical purposes continued.
Approximately 100 physician-approved meals are delivered each day, Monday through Friday, throughout the county by KCSS.
KCSS implemented a new system for mobile meal delivery, referred to as “Stop and Drop” in order to ensure the safety of both volunteers and meal recipients during the pandemic.
Seniors who receive home-delivered meals set coolers outside their door. A KCSS volunteer places the senior’s meal in the cooler, knocks on the door, then returns to their vehicle to watch from there.
If the recipient comes out and retrieves the meal, the volunteer goes on to the next stop. If the senior does not come out to get the meal, the volunteer will call the recipient.
“Our transportation, our medical rides, are essential,” Neff said. “We take several people for dialysis.”
Dividers have been placed in the KCSS buses so that there is some separation between the driver and passengers. Temperatures of passengers are taken prior to boarding the bus and riders are required to wear masks.
“Transportation and home delivered meals went on throughout the year. The activity center had to be closed because seniors could not congregate, but we are now trying to cautiously get back together,” Neff said. “You know, obviously I always talk about the benefits of socialization and to avoid isolation, but that’s what this past year has been about… isolation.”
The Warsaw Parks Department is allowing senior walkers to start walking in the gym again for exercise. Neff said they will soon be starting a Biggest Loser program “because I think a lot of people have had trouble with a few extra pounds during this period.”
Seniors who would like to come to the Senior Activity Center should call (574)-267-2012, as KCSS is keeping track of the number of people attending in an effort to prevent overcrowding.
“They’ve been so excited to get back,” Neff said. “Some of them have just been so lonely.”
During the time the Senior Activity Center was closed, the Warsaw Parks Department made improvements to the building. KCSS rents the building from the parks department.
“Larry Plummer (Warsaw Parks Dept. Superintendent) and Shaun Gardner (Warsaw Parks Dept. Maintenance Director) and everyone with the parks department has been great. They totally remodeled all our bathrooms…new paint, new floor, new vanities,” Neff said. “They remodeled our storage room and our kitchen. We’re grateful beyond words to the parks department – they’ve just been great.”
Because KCSS is a nonprofit agency, they rely heavily on assistance from other organizations as well as volunteers and donations. Volunteers are essential for the success and continuation of the programs.
Neff is determined to keep all three services operating despite funding cuts that have occurred over the past few years.
“One of the things I’ve learned in this job over the past six years is that when people decide to give, they’re so much more likely to give to children’s organizations and I get it…I understand it,” Neff said. “But there just as many people over 60 as there are under 18 in this county. A lot of the ones over 60 need help and there aren’t as many organizations to help seniors.”
Kosciusko Community Senior Services is currently in need of volunteers to deliver meals for their Milford route. If you live in Milford, the route only takes 15-20 minutes to complete. If interested, please call Beverly at (574)-267-2012.
Donations can be made to KCSS through the website using the PayPal option or by mailing or delivering a check to 800 N. Park Ave., Warsaw.