BY BENJAMIN MANDILE
While the Peter Cardella Senior Center (PCSC), which has been serving Ridgewood and its neighboring communities since 1976, has closed its doors to seniors amid COVID-19 fears, it has still found a way to serve its constituents.
Before the center’s closing, but after the pandemic started, seniors would come in one door and out the other as they picked up their meals. But due to social distancing measures, this plan has changed.
Now, PCSC — a provider of NYC Meals on Wheels — has been delivering meals to its 1,600-member list since it had to stop its grab-and-go program last week at the request of NYC officials amid fears of seniors congregating. Each delivery van is delivering about 80 to 100 meals on average.
“It’s a lot of work, and of course our staff has fears themselves because they’re out in the community delivering,” said Barbara Toscano, executive director of PCSC.
Toscano said that the drivers are on the frontlines every day they go out and that the senior center is trying to maintain a balance between keeping the staff safe and serving the needs of the community.
Drivers practice social distancing to protect themselves and the seniors they serve by calling the clients rather than interacting with them when the meals are delivered.
The closing not only has effects on logistics such as meals, but also on the seniors in general who find the center to be their second home and rely on it for social interaction.
PCSC is known for its cooking, health programs, trips and recreation, among other services such as health insurance counseling and mental health counseling.
“We have so many things going on here … everything was canceled,” said Toscano.
Toscano said that while she is not sure of the longterm impact that COVID-19 will have on the senior center, she is trying to “keep ahead of the curve” when thinking about what is going on.
PCSC is the largest senior center in the area, with anywhere from 200 to 300 seniors in the building at any one time.
Seniors are in the sect of the population that are at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Group gatherings have been restricted with multiple changes to the number allowed to publicly gather by both Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office and recommendations by President Donald J. Trump.
With administrative staff still working behind the shuttered doors, Toscano said it is “really strange” to be in the center without the seniors, adding that the staff misses them and cares what is going on with the senior population they serve.