Lewis County Seniors Hoping to Begin Reopening Centers in December

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Could senior centers be open by Christmas?

That’s the question Lewis County Seniors nonprofit board members and staff are asking as they plan to partially reopen some locations starting in December.

It’s been a long 18-plus months for many of the county’s most vulnerable population, as the onset of the coronavirus pandemic halted all activity at the six senior centers. Now, a glimmer of hope shines not too far off in the distance.

Plans were halted over the summer to reopen the senior centers as staff encountered hurdles to safely return seniors during COVID-19 and as contracts were in the works to address cleaning, HVAC improvements and mold that had sprung up in some locations.

Now, with a deposit put down to clean the five senior centers and improve HVAC systems beginning next month, as well as extermination contracts in the works, it looks a little more likely that December may see some centers reopen.

But there’s still a long laundry list that needs to be accomplished before that can happen. 

“I’m excited to get things reopened,” said Lewis County Seniors Board Vice President Carol Brock. “It’s not going to be the way it was before. There’s going to have to be some safety measures in place, and I’m not sure what those are going to look like at the moment.”

Brock was about to attend staff training when she spoke to The Chronicle on Tuesday. She, alongside other board members and nonprofit staff, updated county commissioners earlier that day with what their plans were moving forward.

Since last week, the nonprofit’s staff of about 10 have been meeting to discuss reopening plans and what needs to be done. Most of the site leaders are also new to the job, board members say.

As plans for reopening become more clear, the nonprofit plans on bringing the seniors into the conversation to get their perspectives on reopening.

“They have a lot of knowledge and a lot of insight, and so that’s been very, very helpful,” Pe Ell Site Manager Nora Davis told county commissioners.

During the month of September, 8,806 total meals were served to 328 seniors. The demand for meals went up nearly six times the month following the start of the pandemic, according to documents provided to county commissioners, and has slowly been on the decline.

Board President Ron Averill said they expect roughly 100 seniors will continue to need emergency meal deliveries following the reopening of the senior centers.

“I’m distressed that we’ve gone this long without reopening (the centers),” Averill said.

The Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging, which provides funding for the senior centers to reopen, last week approved the centers’ cleaning plan, Averill said.

Lewis County Seniors recently put down a deposit amount of one-third of a $13,423 contract with Heritage Restoration to have the business start cleaning Nov. 1, paving the way for some centers to reopen Dec. 1.

But the cleaning may be an all-hands-on-deck type situation, as board members described to commissioners that many critters had taken up residency in some of the centers while seniors were stuck at home.

“We found food that had been in a refrigerator for the last 18 months,” Averill said.

 

 

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