Columbia Senior Center closes, still providing meals

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Senior Center serves around 100 people a day between activities and meals. But senior citizens entered the building for the last time Tuesday until the center reopens in April as a safety measure amid COVID-19.

Alan Murphy, one of the Board of Directors for the center, was a part of an emergency meeting held to discuss what steps needed to be taken to ensure the safety of the center's visitors and staff.

"I've been on the board 10 years and we've never had to deal with something quite like this," Murphy said. "It's all new to us and we're trying to feel our way through it."

Activities will be canceled during the time the center is closed, but staff will continue to be paid to make sack lunches for those in need of a meal every day. Staff will bring meals to the front of the building and seniors can pay from the comfort of their car.

Carroll Dollens, who has frequented the center since his retirement 6 years ago, eats at a meal there once a day, five days a week. Aside from the food, Dollens said the people are what keeps him coming back every day.

"We're just hanging out and telling stories and stuff," he said. "It's just a good time over here. It's like one big family."

Dollens has a habit of washing his hands as soon as he comes through the center's doors. He said the older you gets, the smarter you are when it comes to taking care of yourself. But he isn't worried about his friends at the center because of the community-type atmosphere they've worked to build.

"There's a great spirit over this place," Dollen said. "There always has been and probably always will be."

Board members will re-evaluate further actions to be taken on March 31, prior to the re-opening of the center.