Senior center sees increased need in county
The Carroll County Senior Activity and Wellness Center is serving more clients than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Center director Christina Butler reported that the pandemic has impacted the number of meals served through the program.
“The volume of meals we serve has definitely gone up,” Butler said.
The senior center closed to the public on March 17 because of the pandemic, Butler said, and its doors have stayed closed since then. She said the senior center still offers its weekly lunches, but meals are not served indoors. Instead, Butler said, the meals are available for curbside pickup.
“That’s for seniors who are more mobile and can get out of the house,” Butler said last week. “Today, we served 17 even in this weather with the icy roads.”
The senior center also serves homebound seniors, Butler said, and the definition of homebound has changed because of the pandemic.
“That definition has definitely expanded. Some people are staying home, not really leaving the house or sheltering in place,” Butler said. “For anyone over the age of 60 who is not comfortable going out and getting their own groceries, for anyone who has found themselves sheltering in place … that’s where Meals on Wheels comes into place.”
Butler said Meals on Wheels delivers a hot meal Monday through Friday to Berryville, Green Forest, Eureka Springs and Holiday Island. The program also offers frozen meals for anyone who lives outside the hot meal service area.
“Those meals are cooked here in the center. They’re placed into three portions and put in our freezer,” Butler said. “We deliver frozen meals from Osage to Carroll Boone to Alpena to Oak Grove and really everywhere in between as long as it’s in Carroll County.”
Butler said the senior center has stopped using volunteers “just for the safety of our seniors and for our volunteers as well.”
“A lot of our volunteers were in that same vulnerable population we serve,” Butler said. “It has been only employees delivering food. We try to maintain as little contact as possible with our clients. We mask up every time we deliver a meal.”
She continued, “We bag meals up so we don’t have any physical contact with the client, but we do see them each day and speak to them each day. We try to limit the hand-to-hand contact. That’s our big thing. We serve the most vulnerable population in regards to COVID-19 and their safety is something we take very seriously.”
It’s been tough not having that close contact with her clients, Butler said.
“The biggest impact for me personally is not being able to see those seniors here every day,” Butler said. “Being homebound and isolated, a lot of our seniors don’t have a support system in place with family members or neighbors that check on them or grocery shop for them.”
Meals on Wheels also serves as a wellness check service, Butler said.
“We just make sure they’re eating and they’re not ill,” Butler said. “We have to make sure things are staying the same with them, that they’re not mentally ill and that they’re physically taken care of. Plenty of people are looking to get out of the house, but for our seniors it’s worrisome because they’re stuck indoors.”
Butler said the senior center always accepts monetary donations, saying donations cover 49 percent of the senior center’s operating costs.
“We are a nonprofit,” Butler said. “We do depend on those donations quite a bit. We’re so grateful for everyone who helps, because my staff here … we love what we do. We love being able to continue serving these people. Without those donations, it would be much, much more difficult to operate.”
To donate to the senior center, send cash or check to 202 W. Madison Ave. in Berryville.