And people keep coming, now for sack lunches until the center’s water heater can be fixed to allow for hot meals to go. Although Gov. Jay Inslee’s coronavirus directive is called “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” more lunches than usual are being served from the center that’s been closed since March 6.
“The city has graciously allowed us to serve meals at the site,” said Leah Hammon, senior nutrition manager with Homage. Formerly Senior Services of Snohomish County, the Lynnwood-based nonprofit also operates Meals on Wheels, Dial-A-Ride, social services and home repair programs.
In April, about 40 to 50 lunches were served most weekdays at the Everett senior center, Hammon said. In all, she said, 917 meals were provided there last month. Even with some of Homage’s nearly a dozen meal sites around the county closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, she said, the agency served 5,700 meals last month.
“We served more meals in April than any month to date,” Hammon said Tuesday. “We’re seeing some of the same clients, but also people we haven’t seen before.”
Those numbers show the need is great. With the Carl Gipson Senior Center shuttered, there’s hunger, too, for social connection.
Mostly one by one, many in masks, people come from 11 a.m. to noon weekdays to the Everett senior center’s door at 3025 Lombard Ave. Lunches are brought out by Homage staff or senior center volunteers.
“Even just seeing the volunteers helps, having that small face-to-face interaction,” Hammon said.
Outside each day, the 68-year-old Lanphere not only eats lunch, as a longtime senior center volunteer he hands out books and puzzles to those in need of stay-home diversions. The items come from the closed center’s collection. Clients don’t grab books off outdoor shelves. Instead, once they choose, Lanphere wears protective gloves to give out a book, puzzle or game.
On Friday, he had just finished his sack lunch — a sandwich, potato salad, an orange, Sun Chips and a cookie.
Hammon said hot meals will return to the center once the water heater is repaired. A past monthly menu of hot-meal choices includes fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, taco salad, spaghetti, lasagna, chili-topped baked potatoes and other hearty dishes.
Lanphere, who has volunteered at the center about 10 years, called the closure “terrible.”
In 2016, he was featured in a Herald article when the Carl Gipson Senior Center reopened after a two-month closure due to a restroom remodel. At the time, he was thrilled to be back in the billiards room there, playing eight-ball with a friend.
“It’s the only thing I have to do,” Lanphere said about his current volunteer gig.
“Homage Senior Services has been a great partner,” said Julio Cortes, a spokesman for the city of Everett, adding that the agency is continuing to provide lunches. “It is our hope that this service remains as we continue to navigate COVID-19 and explore our budget options,” Cortes said by email Tuesday.
Three full-time workers at the senior center were laid off April 26, he said.
These days, callers to the Carl Gipson Senior Center hear a poignant phone message: “Due to the social distancing limitations and budget issues caused by COVID-19, it has been determined that the senior center will close indefinitely,” says the message, which offers information about lunches and membership refunds.
It ends with hope: “We have loved serving you over the last 40 years and we have high hopes to have the opportunity to do so again in the future.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meals at senior center
Lunches provided by Homage Senior Services are available for pick-up 11 a.m.-noon weekdays at the Carl Gipson Senior Center, 3025 Lombard Ave., Everett. Clients are asked to call 425-257-7088 by 2 p.m. the day before a lunch is needed.
Homage Senior Services also offers to-go meals at other sites in Snohomish County: homage.org/nutrition/dining-sites.