COVID-19: Shawnee shutdown spurs change in senior meal program
Since Mayor Richard Finley's declaration of a state of emergency on Monday evening, all city buildings — including the Shawnee Senior Center, at 401 N. Bell, and the Shawnee Community Center, 806 S. Park — have closed to the public.
What that means for many seniors is that taking part in their daily routines — including a regular lunch meal at the community center — was stopped short, as residents are being encouraged to keep all gatherings to a maximum of 10 people.
Rest assured, though, Project H.E.A.R.T. is still serving meals to seniors, Director of Operations James Bryce said — but in a different way.
Project H.E.A.R.T. Executive Director Chris Harden said since Tuesday seniors have been able to receive their meals at the center in a drive-thru fashion, much like many other local restaurants are doing to limit prolonged contact.
Harden said thanks to the state easing up on restrictions, the program is able to keep offering hot meals to seniors.
“They lifted the requirement that seniors had to come in and sign for their meal, so that has helped,” she explained. “Now that our volunteers can sign for them, we can bring the meals right to their cars and they don't have to come in.”
She said idea is to not congregate, but still receive a regular meal.
“We still have staff cooking and serving hot meals at a time when it's more important than ever,” she said.
As important as it is for seniors to remain able to get them, it is also important that staff remain able to work, Harden said.
“Things could change overnight,” she said. “If things go south even more, the program might have to look into shelf-stable meals.”
Harden said their home-bound clients are still receiving their meals, also.
“We may not be taking them inside; we may leave them on a table by their door,” she said. “We have to protect both the seniors and our workers.”
She said when human contact is necessary, they are holding to the six-foot rule in all their deliveries.
Shawnee's community center is just one of the 14 sites Project H.E.A.R.T. serves, Harden said.
“All the sites together represent about 650 meals a day,” she said, “about 50 of those residents are served at the Shawnee site.”
She said all the program can do is offer its services as best it can as things move forward.
For more information or updates about the program's efforts, call (405) 214-1972.