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Willy Nesmith delivers Lou Brownlee hot meals from the Parkview Center five days a week. He is happy to provide a little companionship and even does her grocery shopping when needed. Lou has stayed close to home since COVID hit back in March 2020 and is thankful for the services provided by the Parkview Center’s staff.

“The last meal we served at the Center in 2020, was corned beef and cabbage on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. We were directed by the State to close our doors and to say it was a sad day, would be an understatement,” said Laura McKenna, Director at Parkview Center. 

But all those sad feelings are going to be replaced with joy when Parkview Center opens its doors for the first time in over 365 days on Monday, April 19.

“We have been given the option to open our doors,” Laura commented. “We are required to have a reopening plan, one that includes health and safety measures that we will implement.”

In their reopening plan, Parkview plans to: 

•Open the Center from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. starting on April 19.

•Serve their regular noon meal and continue with curbside lunch pickup. 

•Clean and sanitize the Center daily and especially during the noon hour.

•Seat three people at each table and serve meals and beverages individually to each senior in attendance, no presetting done at the tables. Have staff wear masks and gloves when serving.

•Continue communication with the Glacier County Health Department to ensure proper safety measures are in place and to keep up with any changes.

•Limit other activities at this time to those that can be done following the social distancing of six feet.

“The plan was developed with health and safety of all, first and foremost,” offered McKenna. offered. “We selected to delay the opening until mid-April to ensure that there isn’t a spike in cases due to all of the tournaments and visitors that we have hosted in the recent weeks. The Board members, County Health Nurse Jenny Krapf and the staff are also hopeful that by mid-April, we will be able to open with less restrictions in place.”

McKenna continued, “We do understand that it has been a long, difficult year for all and that some folks may not be comfortable with being in a congregate setting yet. With that in mind, we will continue with home delivered meals and curbside lunches. We will offer a noon meal in the Center for those who are ready and eager to eat in a social setting.”

McKenna reminded those interested in curbside meals to make their reservations for that meal, which can be picked up by 12:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

During the year of having their doors closed, Parkview Center was still doing home delivery of meals to anyone over the age of 60 who remained at home during the stay-at-home order. They were also allowed to offer what they termed a “daily grab and go lunch” to not only seniors, but anyone in the community who wanted to order a meal.

“This was a great option for those who wanted to be safe and yet continue to eat our lunches,” she said. “”It also gave people the opportunity to at least see their friends from their vehicles. It was another way for us to have a brief ‘how are you doing’ chat. We averaged about 15 lunches per day. It is hard to imagine that we have done this through all four seasons. We were so thankful that we had a mild winter.”

In 2020, Parkview’s home delivered meals saw an increase of 50 percent. “It was rewarding for us, as not only were our meals most appreciated, but the brief conversations were also a highlight to their day. As weeks turned into months, those brief encounters became even more important,” shared McKenna.

For the past year, they were also able to do some grocery shopping for their senior friends as well as pick up necessary prescriptions. And they continued providing transportation for seniors to their doctor appointments and most recently, took seniors to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. 

McKenna admitted when the doors were closed a year ago, things looked bleak for not only the Center, but our world in general.

“There was so much confusion, it was confusing and frightening,” she said. “Saying goodbye to everyone and not being able to tell them how long we would be closed, was so difficult. I remember thinking at the time, wow, overnight we are changing everything we have been doing and we are now ‘essential.’ That’s a big responsibility. We realized we needed to do what we could to keep all of us safe and healthy. None of us were braced for the impact of change, that is for certain.”

But in a few weeks, Parkview Center will open its doors to the community once again. “We are very excited at the idea of opening our doors and having chatter and laughter in this building again! We have held down the fort, kept everything as it was on March 17, 2020. You have been missed,” she added.

While McKenna is the Director at Parkview Center, she is the first to admit that a number of other hands had a huge impact on what they were able to do for the past year. 

“This has truly been a challenging season in all of our lives. My staff is an amazing group of individuals that took the word essential to heart. This job is not just about cooking a meal and serving it, this job is truly caring about the person who is receiving it. Thank you to Nikki Manley, Tracey McNutt, Patti Braz, Willy Nesmith and Bill Hagen for all that you have done and continue to do for this community. And thank you to the Board members for their support this past year.”

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