Senior Center team continues to provide services despite COVID-19 stay-in-place orders

By Dorie Sugay

Dorie Sugay

Sandra Madriles, nutrition coordinator for the Senior Cafe, serves barbecue ribs.
Photo by Marty Cheek

March 16 was the day that the buzz at the hub went silent. With heavy hearts, the management had to announce that the Senior Center will have to “social distance”  itself from the wonderful older adults that frequented “The Hub.”  Debbie Vasquez, the director, and Denise Melroy, program coordinator, silently hoped the center would not have to close for long. But knowing about pandemics, they had a hunch it might have to be closed for a while.

But oh, it will open again, folks!  “The Hub” may not be buzzin’ with laughter coming out of the room where people played ping-pong … the excitement for a job well done may not be heard from the painting class, and the heart-warming sight of people enjoying lunch and socializing at “The Café” may be but a memory at this time — but volunteers Marcy and Heidi continue to keep the connection alive. They have conducted more than 310 well-check calls just the past two months. If you know Debbie and Denise and their team of volunteers, you would have guessed that things did not stop when the center doors closed — the buzzin’ just took another form. Nothing can stop this group. They will not allow a simple closure to stop them from helping people in this community.

Not skipping a beat, the Senior Center team continues to provide services.  The kitchen crew (Sandra, Ingrid and Alicia from Gilroy SNP) continues to prepare the fabulous meals that have won popularity in the community.  Thanks to these ladies, 6,520 to-go meals have been served or delivered to home-bound seniors. The classes have been suspended on site but the center has an online virtual membership where participants can take classes (live and on-demand) and it has been hugely popular. To participate, you can go to and click on “Become a Member.”

Debbie and Denise have been working behind the scenes, figuring out how to keep our seniors safe and yet still able to enjoy the services of the center when it is time to reopen.  Life will have to be very different — it takes a lot of thought and planning to reopen. How can a social environment continue to provide that opportunity to connect from six feet away? How can the center continue to engage people, encourage friendships and provide a warm environment and comply with CDC guidelines? The team has a lot of work to do. Along with all the changes, Debbie is now also wearing two hats and yes, if you think you saw her also helping deliver some of the meals too, you’d be right. But that’s what we have at the center of “The Center” — two very dedicated ladies and hundreds of volunteers who live to give. You’d think they’d be grateful for the break…no, they miss the buzzin’ at the Hub.

Stay tuned for developments. In the meantime, please stay safe, be patient and adhere to what you must to stay healthy so you can help turn up the volume of the buzzin’ when The Hub reopens.

Dorie Sugay is the owner and executive director of Visiting Angels in Gilroy whose mission is to help older adults in Santa Clara and San Benito counties continue to live in their own homes or receive personalized care in a facility. She wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life. Contact her at [email protected]

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