The Upshur County Senior Center is located at 28 N. Kanawha St. in Buckhannon. / File photo by Monica Zalaznik

Upshur County Senior Center sees sharp uptick in activity as pandemic wanes

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Senior Center has expanded its list of programs and hopes more members of the community will participate.

Director Tracie Thompson said one of her first priorities after starting her position in October was to bring people back to the center, following the height of the pandemic.

“We wanted to reach out to people, to let people know what we were doing, and they started coming back in,” Thompson said.

The senior center started by revamping its newsletter to improve communication with members.

“We have over 600 members,” Thompson said. “When we started reaching out to everybody, everybody started coming back. We started getting new activities, and we’re trying to move forward.”

Now, the director is reaching out to an even broader audience. Thompson hopes to engage the entire community to make the center a hub for everyone.

“Senior centers are not only for seniors,” Thompson said. “It is also a community center, so we’re pushing forward as a community center right now. We want people to know we’re here for all types of groups if they want to hold their events or have meetings here.”

One of the first new events Thompson organized was Free Lunch Fridays, which has been sponsored by several different local businesses, such as Holbrooks Nursing Home and Fast and Friendly Pharmacy. Other well-attended programs included bingo and Zumba. 

“We’re also doing a spring celebration on May 20 during the Strawberry Festival,” Thompson said. “We’re going to have an Elvis impersonator here, a band, and we’re going to do a cakewalk. Strawberry capping is supposed to be held here, and we’re going to have a Lord and Lady this year who will be in the parade, voted on by our members.”

David and Sue Wolfe were selected as this year’s Strawberry Festival Lord and Lady.

The cosmetology class from Fred Eberle Technical Center also came down to the senior center and offered a spa day for members.

“They were all excited because they haven’t been out of their homes much for the last two years because of COVID,” Thompson said. “Now they’re getting out and seeing people they haven’t seen in a while.”

Future goals for the center included expanding their Meals on Wheels service.

“We are serving Upshur County, but we’re not in the outlying areas as much as we need to be, so I’m doing my fundraising tours, going around, seeing if there’s any way to expand,” Thompson said.  “We’ve had a lot of donations in the past from Jenkins Ford — they actually gave us a car one year — and also Buckhannon Toyota, and all kinds of different places. So I’m making my rounds and seeing if we can maybe go through that again.”

The center also plans to arrange a job fair, looking for more homecare service workers.

“That is a very hard field right now,” Thompson said. “Finding people is very scarce, and it’s a lot of hard work. A lot of time, they weren’t being paid very well, so our board and I decided back in December to raise the hiring rate.”

During their last job fair in the winter, the center hired five people, but they are hoping to find eight more.

“I don’t know if we’ll make it, but we’re trying to,” Thompson said. “It’s an effort, because when things were shut down a lot of people got put on waiting lists for in-home care services. We lost half the workforce. We don’t want them on a waiting list; we want to be able to provide for everybody that needs help. So we’re really working hard.”

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