‘Still here in different way’

The annual Cookies With Characters fundraiser usually held in October was one of many events that had to be cancelled this year at the Highland County Senior Citizens Center.

The annual Cookies With Characters fundraiser usually held in October was one of many events that had to be cancelled this year at the Highland County Senior Citizens Center.

Times-Gazette file photo

One of the first fundraisers cancelled at the Highland County Senior Citizens Center this year due to COVID-19 was a March return performance by Elvis Presley tribute artist Tyler Christopher.

Times-Gazette file photo

It was supposed to be the year the Highland County Senior Citizens Center celebrated its 50th anniversary. Instead, COVID-19 came calling. The center’s doors closed to the public on March 12, and they remain closed with no one able to predict when they might reopen.

Not only does that mean the members can’t meet at the center for what for some were daily activities, meals and entertainment, but it also means the center has not been able to hold its many annual fundraisers.

That does not; however, mean that the center has quit serving its members or the public.

About once a week, depending on the weather, the center has held drive-thru events for its members where they can pick up free essential items among other things. It continues to send out its newsletter. It held a public “car bingo” event in the Southern State Community College parking lot where 100 turkeys and lots of other prizes were given away. It held a drive-thru veterans event, a drive-thru senior expo, a Facebook Live pumpkin show, and a handful of bingo events played over a radio frequency that members can participate in from their vehicles.

When it has had leftover items from its drive-thru events, the center has donated them to senior living locations in Leesburg, Lynchburg and Hillsboro. And it has continued its Meals on Wheels programs that delivers meals prepared at the center to about 20 seniors Monday through Friday, with frozen food options for the weekends.

“We’re still here, we’re just here in a different way,” executive director Mechell Frost said. “I don’t know exactly what the future may hold, but we are looking forward to seeing everyone again.”

It is because of the generosity of a multitude of local businesses and individuals, Frost said, that the senior center has been able to keep doing what it has been doing.

“Normally they sponsor us so we can have fundraisers that are profitable, but we haven’t been able to have many of those,” Frost said. “So instead they have been donating supplies for members and helping in all kinds of other ways.

“I really want to stress how much they have helped, and thank all the businesses and individuals for supporting us and allowing us to continue to do the drive-thrus and other things. They have been so good to us.”

The list of donors is too long to name them all — Frost rattled off at least 42 names — and that’s not including anonymous donors.

Some of the fundraisers the center has not been able to hold this year include an Elvis Presley tribute, Build A Buddy, ham bingo, barbecue bingo, bacon bingo, Hee Haw Show, Cookies With Characters and Breakfast With Santa, among others.

Another one was the 50th anniversary party, but Frost said the center still plans to hold the party when it can.

There is a board of directors that oversees operation of the center and Frost said that since its March meeting, the board’s goal has been to continue to serve senior citizens in any way the center can.

Memberships are still being accepted, and are required for many of the activities the senior center is currently holding.

For more information call 937-393-4745.

“We’re still here and we look forward to opening our doors again and seeing everyone,” Frost said. “We know our members miss seeing everyone and we miss seeing them, too. Until we can reopen we’ll continue to offer other activities in creative ways the best we can. Hopefully, we’re on the other end of this health issue, because it’s awfully odd to be in a senior center with nobody here.”

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.

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The annual Cookies With Characters fundraiser usually held in October was one of many events that had to be cancelled this year at the Highland County Senior Citizens Center.

One of the first fundraisers cancelled at the Highland County Senior Citizens Center this year due to COVID-19 was a March return performance by Elvis Presley tribute artist Tyler Christopher.



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