Lewis County Seniors President Ron Averill has a message to the many individuals asking the nonprofit to reopen its local senior centers: “I hear them, I agree with them, and as soon as we can resolve all the problems out there, we’ll get them open.”
Lewis County Seniors shuttered its senior centers last March due to the pandemic, and kick-started a meal delivery program to continue serving local seniors now staying at home.
And while Averill may support getting seniors back into the buildings, he said it’ll take approval from the Lewis-Mason-Thurston Area Agency on Aging (LMTAAA), which regulates the nonprofit’s activities.
“We’re going to have to push this,” Averill told The Chronicle.
The plan is to present a reopening plan to LMTAAA. Lewis County Seniors is already cleaning some of its vacant senior centers in preparation. If the plan is approved, Averill said the centers could be open — at least partially — as soon as June.
In a meeting with county commissioners on Tuesday, Averill cited the many letters coming into the nonprofit — and The Chronicle — asking when seniors can get back to activities and classes in-person. In a recent column, former president of The Chronicle Michael Wagar pushed county leaders to take the lead, and to “make it quick.”
Averill told county commissioners — who no longer oversee Lewis County Seniors, but regularly receive updates from the nonprofit — that he’s sympathetic to those clamoring to get back into senior centers.
“But we have to recognize that we are suffering under some restrictions that have to be resolved before we can open them on a regular basis,” he said.
If Lewis County Seniors is approved to reopen, staffing may pose an issue. Staff members are currently preoccupied in the Twin Cities Senior Center, where they make and package thousands of meals a month for their new delivery program, which was given the OK because of the pandemic.
If some centers reopen, Averill expects the meal program to continue, limiting staffers’ ability to open and tend to the other five locations. One option, Averill said, could be a cyclical system in which each center is opened on a different day of the week until full reopening is feasible. Reopening the Twin Cities Senior Center may pose a challenge as well, since staffers regularly occupy the building to prepare meals.
County commissioners appeared supportive of Lewis County Seniors’ plan.
“I do hear from different seniors about the want to reopen, and the social aspect is very real. We all like to be social, and I definitely see the struggle there,” Commissioner Sean Swope said.
Commissioner Gary Stamper commended staffers at Lewis County Seniors, adding “I think everyone definitely feels the pain in this.”
In Lewis County and across the state, the majority of seniors have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.