Dominoes are clinking, playing cards are shuffling, and bingo numbers are being called out once again at the Marble Falls Senior Activity Center, which reopened to members after being closed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The joy at being back with friends is apparent by the smiles and bursts of laughter that fill the place since reopening in March, said Helen DeLancey, president of the center’s board of directors. DeLancey and her 51-year-old son, Ronald, who has Down syndrome, visit the center most days.
“I consider everybody there part of a second family,” DeLancey said.
Located at 619 Avenue L in Marble Falls, the center is a nonprofit organization committed to providing social activities for ages 50 and older. Since it first opened in 1987, members have gathered together for daily games, weekly potlucks, and occasional community-sponsored workshops and other events.
Members pay dues ranging from $8 a month to $75 a year as well as a $10 initiation fee. The money helps keep the center up and running. In addition to weekly events, members have access to other perks, including an in-center library, free blood-pressure checks, and seated workout classes.
Katy Hughes and her husband, Bob Bunning, have been members since 2017. Because of health issues as well as age, they decided last March to quarantine until they could be fully vaccinated.
“I haven’t seen my friends or family for over a year now,” Hughes said. “I haven’t been inside a grocery store since March of last year.”
As vaccines became available in February, board President Emeritus Bob Quigley began working with local pharmacists and doctors at Baylor Scott & White Health clinics to make sure any of the 70 registered members who wanted vaccinations would be able to get them, including Hughes and Bunning.
“Bob (Quigley) put together a list of people that he knew were in the categories of people they were vaccinating at the time, and would follow up with people about if they’d gotten a call,” Hughes said. “Both my husband and I were already in the system, but I know that Bob calling them and having our names on that list surely helped us. It was a huge relief to know we were in the queue for the vaccine.”
By the beginning of April, every person on Quigley’s list had received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“One day, the phone started lighting up with members telling us they got their call to get vaccinated,” Quigley said with a smile. “That was a good day.”
Lack of fellowship is not the only difficulty the Marble Falls Senior Activity Center is facing because of COVID-19. Finances have taken a hit as membership fees, a major annual fundraiser, and rentals for private parties were all canceled for the past year. Meanwhile, the cost of maintaining the building did not go away.
At the annual Chili Meal Fundraiser, members cook over 400 pounds of ground beef for their signature dish. In February 2020, before COVID-19 caused a nationwide lockdown, about 650 dinners were sold, raising around $5,000 in revenue.
“Not having that this year has set us back,” Quigley said.
Also, a weeklong winter storm in February damaged the center’s roof, which was already in need of repairs. Water caused portions of the floor to bubble up; decay and mold stained the ceiling.
While the organization is pursuing grant funding and hopes insurance will cover the costs of some damage, support will be needed from the Marble Falls community. Anyone interested in donating may contact Grant and Donation Coordinator Dena Burroughs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite the struggles, DeLancey and Quigley have high expectations for the center’s future. They hope to host more weekly activities in May and are even considering a mask-optional policy since most members are vaccinated. Otherwise, they are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols for social distancing and mask wearing. Members have their temperatures taken before entering the building.
Those interested in becoming members or volunteering at the Marble Falls Senior Activity Center should contact 830-693-5611 or email@example.com.
“It’s a place that you go to where the more you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it,” Quigley said.