The Waxahachie Senior Activity Center reopens for use Monday, June 7. The facility had been closed for almost 15 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, of which the past five months were spent serving as the county’s vaccination hub.
John Smith, assistant parks director and senior activity center manager, told the Sun he’s honored by the role the center and its staff played during the pandemic.
“We could not have been prouder to serve in this way,” Smith said. “To see (people) walk out of here knowing they were going to survive the pandemic was just a huge uplifting event for us. It is a difficult part of our history, but we are proud to be a part of it.”
During the closure and while operating as a vaccination hub, plans were developed for the center’s eventual re-opening. The staff took steps to keep in contact with members over the months: checking on their well-being, seeing if they needed anything, giving away boxes of food, and arranging a time where books and puzzles could be picked up curbside.
Smith said he is excited to reopen the center.
“I started in September 2020, and Debbie Bryant and the staff had already been closed for six months when I joined,” Smith said. “We’ve spent the last year working on the center and beautifying the center. Making changes was necessary to make things more convenient for the members, planning more activities and more instruction.
“The center has been closed since March 17, 2020,” he said. “During the whole year while we were closed there have been phone calls every day from people asking ‘when you are going to be open’ and ‘when can we come back.’ ”
During the past month, Smith said the staff has been contacting all of the instructors, teachers, and volunteers to ensure that all of the exercise classes, art classes, and games start up without any problems opening day.
To open up the center safely, several new operating guidelines have been set up. Social distancing will be in place for activities, the number of chairs at tables for lunch and games will be limited, and the number of people participating in exercise classes will be restricted so rooms don’t become overcrowded. Masks will be encouraged but not required. Sanitizing materials will be placed throughout the building.
Members using the center’s gym will find the equipment spaced out for social distancing. They will be required to wipe down the equipment after use with the sanitizing wipes that will be made available.
Over the years, the center’s mission has included outreach projects, including its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Garden that allows seniors to share their knowledge with students and the Be a Santa to a Senior program where gifts are collected and given to seniors, hospital patients, and veterans during the Christmas season.
Smith said these outreach programs will return over time and that he looks to build upon the strong foundation left by the center’s previous director, Jeanee Smiles, who retired in 2020.
“Jeanee did a wonderful job in the 10 years that she was here,” Smith said. “She built a wonderful center and was a huge part of the members’ lives. We are just going to springboard off of what Jeanee built out here and try to uphold the standard of excellence that has been set.”
Smith said he’s working to get the word out about the center because he found out that many people who came in for a vaccine didn’t realize the city of Waxahachie had such a resource. He will continue to strengthen the community partner relationships that were made during the pandemic, such as the one with Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Waxahachie.
The Senior Activity Center is located at 122 Park Hills Drive in Waxahachie. Staff can be reached at 469-309-4280 for questions or additional information. The center will be open from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays. There are also plans to have Saturday hours, with that reopening date to be announced.
More information can be found on the city’s website at www.waxahachie.com.