For all the hardship that dominates the news as businesses struggle to stay afloat, first responders take necessary risks, and administrators and faculty strive to maintain a stellar record at thwarting coronavirus transmission in the local schools, there is one group for whom winter cannot end soon enough, and that’s the seniors.
Marion’s aged enjoy getting out and getting with their friends. It’s a vital difference-maker in their lives, especially in winter. So, when the Council on Aging announced its Valentine’s Day drive-thru luncheon for February 13, the seniors put it all in perspective with an overwhelming response.
“We had 100 inside last year, and it was the last busy day before COVID struck. So, when we put this in the newsletter that they were doing another party this year, we sent out the newsletters on Monday. Tuesday morning, the phone started ringing because people remembered the party from last year and how nice it was and how much fun they had,” said COA Program Coordinator Linda Jackvony.
Saturday’s cavalcade was only the latest among several lines of vehicles that have become a frequent occurrence these past few months at the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center. The town’s drive-thru flu-shot clinic functioned as a dry run for the first responder COVID-19 vaccination clinics that followed, the retirement sendoff for former Chief of Police John Garcia, and most recently a COVID-19 vaccination clinic aimed toward Marion’s aged population.
The Community Center has been a beacon of volunteerism, and Saturday’s small group of helpers was outside by the little shed like so many others of late.
The February 13 event was initially scheduled for February 14, but the COA didn’t want to defy a weather forecast calling for snow. Even with the date adjustment, Saturday’s cavalcade showed up 100 strong, and it showed up early.
The Italian lunch included a meat lasagna, broccoli with ziti in a butter sauce, a green salad with tomato, and a French roll. A rich chocolate brownie was packed for dessert with a gift bag including a notepad, pen, and individually wrapped chocolate hearts, all of it courtesy of Dwight Crosby, owner of a local business.
“We opened a small business, a Christian-based business in the town, and just felt that we should give back,” said Crosby. “I can’t wait ’til this COVID stuff is lifted; we can get a deejay in here and get these people up and dancing and having a really good time. Last year they did karaoke, and it was fun.”
The drive-thru event would not be able to compete with last year’s that had raffles and dancing to music provided by a live disc jockey, but the 2021 version of the event was embraced, nonetheless.
“I just think it’s such a nice thing that he does for the community,” said Jackvony. “They’re very excited, it’s something for them to look forward to.”
The majority of seniors engaging in COA programs range from age 75 to 80. “Some are older, but these are all people who used to come to the center on a regular basis,” said Jackvony, noting that the COA would have had 25 people in the building for Wednesday’s Memory Cafe. The COA also holds grab-and-go lunches for anywhere between 25 and 40 people on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The hope is that 2021 will eventually be different, and the seniors can get back to devoting three hours on Wednesdays for a program including lunch, exercise, and entertainment followed by dessert and coffee. Programs like these that bring activity stimulating the bodies and minds of those afflicted with Alzeimer’s or dementia even buoy the younger helpers who can use the camaraderie.
“It’s not only good for the patients,” said Jackvony, “but good for the caregivers, too.”
By Mick Colageo