By Lisa Carolin
During this strange, unchartered, and scary time, the Chelsea Senior Center is showing itself to be a lifeline to its more than 1,000 members.
Whether senior center staff members are telephoning individual members to see how they’re doing, surveying them to see who is interested in grocery delivery, or sending out its upbeat monthly newsletter, the Chelsea Senior Center is an important connection and even a lifeline for Chelsea area seniors, especially during the Covid 19 pandemic.
In the normally buzzing halls of the Washington Street Education Center, there are now six senior center staff members who continue to work, doing everything from answering calls to preparing and delivering more than 500 Meals on Wheels per week. Two school district staff members are cooking all the meals.
“We make wellness calls to check in on our members; take their calls; send cards; create and send out weekly e-updates with useful links and other information; and still create, print, fold and mail out the monthly written version of our newsletter (over 700 copies),” said Bill O’Reilly, executive director of the Chelsea Senior Center.
Mackenzie Pfeiffer has created useful videos that are available on YouTube, and other staff members have been working on Zoom gatherings for members. The staff also has its regular responsibilities including managing finances, preparing reports, and more.
The staff’s priority: “Responding to our members’ needs as best we can,” said O’Reilly.
“We realize we can’t do everything and there are limits, but we do what we reasonably can to keep them involved.”
O’Reilly says that most of the senior center members they speak to are anxious to get back to activities as usual.
The closure of the senior center is a disappointment for members, but a necessity.
“We realize most all other operations are concerned about their ‘customers’, but few have a population that is so universally vulnerable,” said O’Reilly. “We will of course take extra steps to protect our members when we reopen.”
Senior center staff members are preparing a written plan of how reopening the center might pan out and have created a committee made of members who are retired medical professionals along with senior center board members to work on taking steps that reduce risks as much as possible.
“We also will likely stagger things as we reopen,” said O’Reilly. “For example, prior to all this happening, we offered 275 activities per month. The first month back we may offer only a third or half of them and then more the next month and so on. Regardless, we know that it will not be 100 percent as it was day one, but we will safely work towards getting back to as normal as we can.”
To learn more about the Chelsea Senior Center, call 734-475-9242 or go to www.chelseaseniors.org.