Under pressure from the Churchill County Commission, staff at the Pennington Life Center presented a draft reopening plan to the Coalition for Senior Citizens board meeting last Thursday. Under the plan, beginning May 1, the center would open up for small group classes, and June 1 would open for dining inside the center.
Director Lisa Erquiaga explained that she had been requested to speak at the County Commission meeting the day before and present the Center plan for reopening. She was uncomfortable doing that because the Coalition board had not yet seen the plan.
Erquiaga presented to the Coalition the same draft plan she had given the county commission the day before, along with an activity plan for May. She said Buster Pierce had contacted other senior centers across Northern Nevada to find out what their plans were for reopening and was waiting for the national senior center organization to provide direction for reopening under “Best Practices.”
Board member Karla Kent asked about the classes, whether they would be open before June 1. Erquiaga clarified that Bingo-cise, cooking, gardening, and the art class are all possibilities to be held indoors. The outside walking class, which is currently taking place, will continue.
Kent said, “Yesterday the commissioners were pretty strong about wanting the center to open May 1 when they are relaxing the community and opening to 100%, I just want to get your feelings about that and what your thoughts are.”
Erquiaga said, “They want to open it up to 100% but I think because of the nature of our business and the people that we serve, that’s why I’m saying that’s why we take it slow and let people come back in but for the dining, we are waiting to get guidance from our national affiliates on congregate dining and senior centers.”
There was a conversation at the commission meeting the day before that the senior center is similar to restaurants that will be open 100%, but Erquiaga said, “we are not a restaurant.” She said the grantor at the senior center has federal regulations that the staff has to follow and, “comparing us to a restaurant is not correct.”
County Commissioner Justin Heath, who serves on the Coalition board as well, asked how many people are signing into the Zoom classes that the center has been offering during COVID. Erquiaga said there were five people that day signed in. Before COVID there would be 45 people in a class.
During the conversation over reopening the center, Erquiaga said although the county wants to see the center open, “you are the Board, and you have the right to make the decision. “We are a private, non-profit organization providing the services, and though we may be in a county-owned building, this is everyone, the City, the Coalition, the Pennington Foundation, and the Board should make the decision.”
Heath reported that the Eureka Senior Center is fully open now, Winnemucca will open fully on May 15, and Lyon will open on May 17.
In other business, Erquiaga also reported to the Coalition members, that the Life Center has had three good news stories on the programs, including the gardening program. She also reported that over the next year from the Southwest Gas employee contribution program, the senior center will receive over $5,000 in contributions. In April the center received $436 and in May, $654 in May from the employee donations. That will go into a separate fund and decisions on spending it will be made at a later date.
Additionally, due to fundraising efforts over the past year, including a $10,000 donation from Enel North America and a grant from the Aging and Disability Services Division for $49,000 the center will be purchasing two new hot/cold box trucks to be used for the Meals on Wheels program. Through an additional fundraising program through direct mail, as of April 21 Erquiaga has received from 34 individuals $6,675 which is earmarked specifically for Meals on Wheels.
Coalition Board members are Chair, Jill Manha; Vice-Chair, Roberta Lind; Secretary/Treasurer, Jamie Hyde; City of Fallon Councilwoman, Karla Kent; County Commissioner, Justin Heath; and members, Julie Richards, Carol Seitzinger, and Elsie Lee (alternate to the City of Fallon). The next meeting of the Coalition will be held in July.