By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Atmore’s Senior Activity for Independent Living (SAIL) Center is unable to provide the array of activities its clients have gotten used to. There is one key service, though, that has continued — in a different format — without interruption.
“We are still feeding our clients, Monday through Friday, every week,” SAIL Center Director Charlotte Purvis said. “We have drive-through meals service for all our clients who can drive or be driven to the center, and we deliver meals to the homes of those who are not able to come to the center. We want to make sure they get a good, hot meal every day.”
The meals are catered by GA Foods in Satsuma, but the center’s staff has to do more than just hand the pre-wrapped food to clients.
“They deliver the meals every morning,” Purvis said. “We take them from (the caterer) and seal them after we add the accessories, like milk, bread and dessert. We can’t even use the bags they bring the meals in, so [the caterer] provides t-shirt bags for us to put the meals in.”
Purvis said she doesn’t know when things might return to normal but has been told it won’t happen before the end of this year.
“I’ve been told that things will probably stay like this at least through the first of the year,” she said. “I feel like it probably won’t happen until they get a vaccine for this coronavirus.”
The state’s senior centers are overseen by South Alabama Regional Planning Commission (SARPC). Julie McGee, who serves as Area Agency on Aging Director for SARPC, said there is no timeline for lifting the restrictions, since senior citizens as a group are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
“The senior center openings are determined by Governor Kay Ivey, who has kept them closed under the Safer at Home order,” McGee said. “However, activities such as seniors picking up meals curbside, and other outside or curbside activities are allowed as long as the social distancing rules are followed.”
Staff members at all SAIL centers are also encouraged to call homebound clients to check on their well-being and give them encouragement.
“We also ask that the senior center staff call all their home-delivered meal seniors and other seniors they do not see regularly at curbside, to address social isolation,” McGee said.
Purvis said she and Atmore SAIL Center staff, with the help of Southern Care Hospice personnel, did go outside the meals-only routine last week in an attempt to engage a particular group of its clients. That activity also had to be modified from its normal format.
“We had a drive-through Veterans Day program,” the center director explained. “We gave our veterans pins, flags, a certificate and a card thanking them for their service. We always honor our veterans, and this was the only way we could do it.”
News photo by Ditto Gorme