Harrington Senior Center stays active during pandemic

HARRINGTON — The Harrington Senior Center’s doors might be closed but its staff is still doing all it can to help its members.

“The worst thing for a senior is to be home alone and not keep their mind and body active,” said executive director Karen Crouse. “That’s why we’re doing as much as we can to interact with them. We’re here for our members and we really appreciate the community support we’re getting and continue to get.”

Ms. Crouse, her staff of four and a team of volunteers have been working to keep their members fed and engaged throughout the state’s shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Harrington Senior Center has been closed since March 16 but the staff has found numerous ways to service all members.

Transportation specialist Jim Eastman has continued the center’s transportation service, which takes members to grocery stores, the bank and any medical appointments. If anyone is not comfortable going to the store, the Harrington Senior Center staff is taking down their grocery lists and doing the shopping for them.

All center members can receive food via the Meals on Wheels program run through the Modern Maturity Center in Dover. Meals come to the Harrington Senior Center and are packaged for delivery to members in Houston, Harrington and Felton. Community members have also been donating money to cover some of the meals for low-income members.

Ms. Crouse said the staff has been helped out tremendously by numerous volunteer drivers to deliver the meals, including police and fire departments. Modern Maturity Center and Harrington Senior Center each started curbside service for contact-free pickup.

Harrington Senior Center put out a call on its Facebook page for donations of essential items. This helped provide members with paper towels, wipes, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, masks and gloves.

When the news of the impending closure first came down from Gov. John Carney, Ms. Crouse said the first step was making phone calls and updating all members’ email addresses to keep everyone in the loop.

“We’re just trying to make sure they know we’re there for them,” Ms. Crouse said. “We’re trying to serve their needs as best as we can right now. I try to send something out every day to let them know we’re here.”

It was a difficult time for Ms. Crouse, activities director Karen Williams and receptionist Faith Moore, but Ms. Crouse said the team did the best it could to come up with a plan.

“There was no way we could stay open and be able to social distance,” Ms. Crouse said. “We maintained we needed to be calm for our members. There was a lot of stress, but we kept all that hidden. The first couple of weeks were pretty stressful but we got it now where things are going pretty good.”

“We’re taking all precautions too,” Ms. Crouse added. “We do temperature check every day. We’re making sure we’re following every recommended protocol and I’m sure we’ll have more to follow when we open back up.”

The center had to cancel all events from March through May. This included trips to local restaurants, game nights at the center and a group vacation to Cape Cod in Massachusetts which was scheduled for May.

Ms. Crouse said her staff has been helping the center’s members learn how to communicate on social media.

The center sent out videos this month via email to celebrate all April birthdays and another for Easter. It has a Facebook live set up for May for bingo and armchair aerobics while also planning virtual tours of different foreign cities using Google Earth.

The staff is also working with its more senior members who might not have access to the internet. Ms. Crouse is still sending out a newsletter and has been leaving puzzles outside the center for pickup.

The center is doing its best to educate its members during the pandemic on the proper way to social distance while also warning them about possible phone scams.

All this while planning for the eventual return when the center can open its doors again.

“We’re thinking of ways to open but still be able to keep social distance when we do open because we’ll likely have to ease into it,” Ms. Crouse said. “You can’t play cards and be six feet apart. We’re thinking about asking for donations for a large TV for the dining room where we can social distance and have movie days. Maybe have cornhole games outside too, you can social distance and be six feet apart while playing cornhole.”

Ms. Crouse said the hardest part currently is the unknown of when the center can reopen and where its finances will come from. She’s been researching different grants which can be available for staff and programs for when the center can open back up.

“I know there’s uncertainty with the state budget,” Ms. Crouse said. “We’re just trying to prepare for anything to be able to provide the services they want and need.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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