Written by Akila Gibbs
When I walked into my office that morning—Thursday, March 12, 2020—little did I know that our way of serving the community was about to change dramatically because of just-announced COVID restrictions. By 5:00 p.m. that day, I had sent a press release to the local media announcing that we were following health mandates and shutting our physical doors.
By the next morning, Friday, March 13, 2020, the Center had transformed into something I could never have imagined.
This month marks a full year that the Center has gone where it had never gone before, in its storied 60-plus year history. The Center became a mobile unit of sorts, reaching out to deliver food to seniors’ homes, providing Zoom classes via invisible internet cables, and nourishing social connections that have only grown stronger since the pandemic began.
Deemed an “essential service,” the Center was allowed by health authorities to continue operating because its service was as vital to seniors as grocery stores and pharmacies. Our Zoom workshops now were open to everyone, not just Center members, and featured usual topics about things like diabetes and how to tap dance, but soon included doctors speaking about COVID vaccines and how to stay safe.
The virus reminded us of our vulnerability, but it also showed our resilience:
Resilience, noun: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness
I saw that resilience every day, as Center staff and members handled Zoom calls like old pros (or, like the poster children for “old pros,” Dr. Anthony Fauci and our very own Dr. Kimberly Shriner of Huntington Hospital). I also saw that this new way of providing services opened the door to creativity as our class selection expanded (Solo Ballroom Dancing anyone? How about Virtual Acting?).
But, what really warmed my heart was that we all got closer. The connections we had got stronger: to family, friends, work colleagues, even strangers standing in line with us somewhere. Living through this deadly pandemic showed us how much we need each other. I know that I have gotten to know the Center Board members in a deeper way than other years, and our warm-hearted collaboration over the past year is something I will always treasure.
These lessons, or silver linings, are what will stay with me as we look forward to this next year ahead. With fingers crossed, we will be opening our doors again to welcome you. Keep checking our website for updates on what our reopening will look like.
Hope to see you, in person, soon!