Seniors returning to O’Neill Center for activities, community
MARIETTA — Safe activities are in full swing at the O’Neill Center and for some, it is the first opportunity for safe fellowship since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the O’Neill center opened its doors per Gov. Mike DeWine’s order last September, some have been leery of returning for activities due to the risk of exposure.
Connie Huntsman, executive director, said more people are returning to the center because they are now fully vaccinated.
A memorable reunion happened when one of the members walked through the doors after receiving her vaccinations to participate in one of the many activities offered.
“When she walked in the door, she turned and looked at me. I could see the hugest smile that just warmed my heart and she said ‘it’s my first time anywhere, I hadn’t been anywhere,'” Huntsman. “She said ‘I am so happy to be back.’ Tears just came. She brought one of her friends and they were here to join in. It was just so heartwarming to see that.”
Among activities offered at the O’Neill center are new events including music therapy, a knitting group, a virtual gardening session and a Kentucky Derby party.
Huntsman said the staff had to come up with some new, safe activities. Popular games like Bingo, cards and pool can’t be played because people would be handling the same items.
“We’ve added a lot virtual (programs). We know that’s important so that people can have that communication, those things are what they are longing for,” Huntsman said.
The O’Neill Center is celebrating its 35th anniversary and to celebrate, a social media contest has begun.
“We came up with a 35-word challenge of words related to the history, programs and passions of the O’Neill Center,” said Erin O’Neill, development coordinator.
The words were posted on social media and the person who submitted all the words by Thursday won $35 in Marietta bucks to be used at local businesses.
“It’s just a fun way to celebrate who we are, to share with our supporters and to drive traffic to our social media accounts,” O’Neill said.
What began as a senior transportation and information organization in 1974 morphed into a place for the community to come together and enjoy activities and friendships. Through the years, thanks to block grants, a successful capital campaign and the work of the board of trustees, the O’Neill center became what it is today.
“Of course we have grown so much since then. We have served so many seniors and have created so many wonderful community partnerships,” O’Neill said. “As things slowly start to turn around from the pandemic, we are optimistic about this next year and the next 35 years will bring.”
A unique quality of the O’Neill center is that it is a nationally accredited nonprofit and, according to Huntsman, it represents less than one percent of the senior centers in the country with that classification.
“I am so blessed to work with an organization that puts so much emphasis on safety and quality and meeting the needs of the community,” Huntsman said.
Candice Black can be reached at email@example.com.