The Senior Center is usually empty now, but people behind the scenes keep the mission alive

Former activities before COVID-19 at the Senior Center.

By Dorie Sugay

Dorie Sugay

The Centennial Recreation Center where the Senior Center in Morgan Hill stands has been silent — a stark contrast to the days before COVID-19 forced its presence among us. Before the health crisis, electricity in the air greeted you at the door of the center and the energy that permeated the halls reminded you why this place was appropriately called “The Hub.” It was where necessary work happened. It was where the fun was. The absence of activity, however, does not mean the mission is on pause. The work continues behind the scenes.

The Senior Center is usually empty now, but there are people behind the scenes that keep the mission alive, doing “essential work,” people who are absolutely unique and caring men and women who are continuing to work at changing the world of Morgan Hill’s older adults. One of them is Debbie Vasquez, who runs the Senior Center. She has not missed a step despite all the obstacles thrown at her by this pandemic. She is determined not to let the pandemic take the center’s mission on a detour. Debbie and the very capable Denise Melroy, and a small number of unique, caring people continue the work of a city committed to being “Age Friendly.”

As you may know, Morgan Hill had a program called, Get’n Around Town Volunteer Driver Program, which provided rides for seniors to and from the Senior Center.

In October, a partnership with RYDE (Reach Your Destination Easily) was established to offer affordable transportation services to residents 65 and older. This partnership expands the services Morgan Hill residents can enjoy. Now older adults can get rides to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and family gatherings without having to wait on a busy friend or family member.

“It’s amazing to have a program in Morgan Hill where if you need a ride to a doctor’s appointment you are able to get one at a price you can afford,” said Maggie Cushman, a recent resident of Morgan Hill. Alison Thomas, Maggie’s daughter, agreed. “I am so grateful to have a resource in Morgan Hill for my mother,” she said. “Thank you to all the volunteers who help get these seniors to their destinations.”

This is just one of the many things that the “caring few” at the Senior Center have made possible. This program needs more volunteer drivers. If the idea of helping an older adult tugs at your heart, please call the Senior Center at (408) 310-4255 or email Denise Melroy at [email protected]

What else can two staff members and a handful of volunteers do? How about picking up donations of bread and pastries from our local Good Samaritan at Nob Hill Foods, having more than 28,000 meals prepared for pick-up by our local seniors, and delivering another 2,000 meals to older adults who are home-bound.

Our volunteers have all been ultra-busy. Motivated to make sure those without support are well, they even found time to make well-check calls to people who registered at the Senior Center.

The pandemic may have closed the center and the buzz at The Hub is reduced to a whisper. But the message is loud and clear — staff and volunteers still march on to do what they can to help older adults.

But they can’t continue this work without help from the community. If you can volunteer for the RYDE program, please do. If you can send a donation so the Senior Center can continue their work, please do. Bingo was one way the center raised funds to supplement the county budget. Unfortunately, the pandemic has slammed that door. If all or a majority pulled together with a donation, the future of this program would be more secure. Please send your donation to: Centennial Recreation Senior Center, 171 West Edmundson Ave.  Morgan Hill, CA 95037.

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. Contact her at [email protected]

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