OBERLIN, Ohio — Oberlin seniors are calling a new place home after their original community center was forced to close permanently last year. The city and local community service nonprofit in charge, Neighborhood Alliance, was unable to afford the costs and COVID demands.
“We had to close it down for multiple reasons the pandemic being one of them,” said Alicia Foss, president and CEO of Neighborhood Alliance. “The program itself is not the problem, the building was the problem.”
Foss says the minimum programming offered to seniors cost more than $100,000, which included the cost of the senior center building on Main Street.
“One of our growing concerns is the socialization and that interaction that they had with their peers and losing that as a result of the senior center closing,” Foss said. “So, we wanted to create a space where they could still come and enjoy that socialization and that mental health aspect of it and really come together and have some activities that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Mobile Senior Center
After closing its Oberlin Senior Center, Neighborhood Alliance sought out a partnership with the community in an effort to continue serving seniors. Without the funding to reopen, Foss says the team came up with the idea of a 90-day pilot program to avoid the costs of a building.
The program, Mobile Senior Center, started Sept. 20, 2021, through collaboration with First Church in Oberlin at 106 N. Main St. on Mondays every week from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Seniors are offered meals and activities throughout the day, including cards, bingo, movies, guest speakers, and other supportive services to meet specific needs.
“We figured this is a way to test the waters and give more time to come up with funding moving forward,” Foss said. “The seniors were very excited and very receptive. We did a survey with them to see what they want to see in the future and I think we got a lot of good feedback from them and they’re appreciative of the opportunity to be able to get together and see each other.”
The program will run through December. Foss says they’re hoping to see the “same good results that we have over the last few weeks with it and then look at what we can do next year.” The goal, she says, is to be able to offer the program to other communities throughout Lorain County coping without a senior center, which includes Elyria and Vermillion.
For questions and more information about the Mobile Senior Center, click here or call 440-227-8269.
“The Oberlin Senior Crew”
They’re a small, witty, tight-knit group of about 20 seniors, including Luereacie Halloway, who would consider the crew as her extended family.
“I hang out with these old folks,” she said jokingly. “We have such a good time.”
Halloway says she cherishes the comradery and connections she has made since joining the began coming to the former Oberlin Senior Center years ago.
“Having other people in my life means a lot to me.”
Just shy of her 79th birthday, Halloway says she has spent the last 20 years living alone. Last year, she says the pandemic pushed her a little further into isolation. Though, the proud Oberlin native says she does “a lot of telephoning” to stay connected. However, her time spent with the Neighborhood Alliance teams and her “girls” is what she now looks forward to every Monday.
“We’ve got a senior group like no other in Lorain County,” Halloway said. “We’re welcoming and we’re warm and loving people.”