CANTON The coronavirus forced the JRC Adult Day Care Center to close its doors on March 16, but the agency hasn’t stopped caring for the people who count on its services.

Since April 1, staffers from the center at 3300 Parkway Ave. NW have been making and packing lunches, which are then delivered on an 80-mile route throughout Stark County.

Executive Director Tom Thompson said it’s a way to serve and stay connected to people who otherwise might fall through the cracks.

The lunches, which are delivered five days a week, were the idea of Program Director Melanie Griffith and Gina Aston, a floor supervisor.

"We did a phone survey and found that many of our seniors were failing (nutritionally)," Aston said.

One of the seniors ended up in the hospital because of a lack of food. And many don’t have transportation and can’t get to food banks or the grocery store.

"If they have to go out, they’re so vulnerable to COVID-19," Thompson said. "Keeping them home as safe as possible is one of our objectives."

Biggest worry

Griffith said they also offer activities similar to the ones held at the center: games and crafts to help the seniors maintain their cognitive skills.

"We even do bingo," she said, laughing. "We’re making sure that people with hobbies have the equipment they need to continue them."

Griffith said the staff also does regular wellness checks, noting that of the 48 people they serve, half live alone.

"On Mondays, you can’t get them off the phone," she said with a smile.

Griffith added that most of the seniors understand the magnitude of the current crisis.

"Our biggest worry is that someone’s not going to get the services they need and end up in the hospital," she said.

Aston said being able to continue some services also helps the staff.

"We’re trying to keep our days as normal as possible," she said.

Volunteer coordinator Lesley Venturella this week oversaw the center’s ninth annual fashion show at the Mayfield Manor Apartments. Normally, the event is held at the center, complete with a runway, volunteer escorts, and the seniors as models.

Missing the people

"Last year, Encore lent us some clothing, but this year, we’re taking our fashion show on the road with us," Venturella said.

Seniors accepting lunch deliveries were asked to wear their "Sunday best."

At the apartment complex, Angela Powell and her fiance, Ray Koerber, waited patiently for their lunches. The couple said they’ve been attending the day care center for five years.

"I miss the people," Powell said. "I miss doing puzzles together."

"It will be nice to see everyone," Koerber said.

One of their neighbors, Pearl Hoke, greeted the staff dressed up in pink with sparkly shoes to match. The staff took photos, just as they would along the runway.

"You see the difference in attitude and excitement in being able to participate," Venturella said.