The process of returning to normal in the time of COVID-19 is proving to be a challenge. Like many businesses and services, the Montevideo Community Center closed its doors at the beginning of the pandemic to help slow the spread of the disease. On Monday, Aug. 31, the Community Center quietly reopened its doors to the public.

The process of returning to normal in the time of COVID-19 is proving to be a challenge. Like many businesses and services, the Montevideo Commun­i­­ty Center closed its doors at the beginning of the pandemic to help slow the spread of the disease. On Monday, Aug. 31, the Community Center quietly reopened its doors to the public.

“I could not have asked for a better reopening experience,” said Com­munity Center Director Tracy Wellendorf. “We reopened slowly and put the word out at the last minute, but that proved to be a blessing in disguise. It wasn’t like the floodgates were opening; people just kind of trickled in!”

Word that the center was once again open was spread via email and word of mouth. “Originally, we were only going to hold meet ups and visits, but there was a point where someone called and asked if we could please have line dancing when we reopened,” said Wellen­dorf.

Public interest in having popular programs resume was high, prompting a change in direction for the reopening of the center. “I re-evaluated my plan and thought about how we could open up safely for our exercise programs,” Wellendorf said. “Myself, the city manager, the Community Center Board of Directors, and Countryside Public Health all came up with a written plan to safely hold our programs.”

According to Wellen­dorf, the written plan calls for one hour between programming for the proper cleaning of the Community Center. “We’re also screening people when they come in the building, and we are following the mask mandate,” she said.

So far, people have been excited and happy that the Community Center is open once again. “It’s been going great,” said Wellendorf. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback. I had one lady tell me that her neighbor feels comfortable coming to the Community Center, and that she was impressed by all of the safety measures which we put in place.”

Even though COVID-19 has negatively impacted the day-to-day lives of nearly everyone, Wellen­dorf pointed out that some good has come from the situation, at least, for the Community Center. She said: “One really exciting thing is that the pandemic has opened our eyes to opportunities beyond what we were doing before. We’ve integrated technology to make our programs accessible to more people. Those who are not comfortable with coming to the Community Center, those who may not be feeling well, or those who want to involve a family member who lives outside the community can still participate in our programming from the comfort of their homes.”

Technology has allowed the Community Center to offer hybrid line dancing, hybrid bingo, and a hybrid book club. “I’m working with our IT professional to come up with even more creative opportunities to utilize the technology that is available to us,” said Wellendorf.

Currently, line dancing is taking place twice weekly. “We have 30 people signed up for line dancing; we couldn’t have all 30 show up at one time, so we opened up another section,” Wellendorf said. “Participants are assigned one day at the Community Center, and the other day they are able to participate virtually, if they’d like. If there is enough interest, we’ll open up a third section!”

Another activity that has become popular is throwing dice. Wellendorf explained: “We have a group of card players who come to the center to play dice games. We have tables set up so they can socially distance. Each player brings their own dice, so there is no passing dice around. One person keeps score for everyone, and everyone has a fun time!”

When asked if they have to be on the lookout for loaded dice, Wellendorf laughed and said: “Loaded dice aren’t allowed! We do have one person who tends to win a lot, and she wins a lot at bingo, too!”

Of course, not everything is back to normal. “There are certain things which we are not able to offer yet, which I wish we could. Anything that involves people being closer than six feet to each other, or passing objects back and forth, those types of things have been placed on hold,” said Wellendorf.

At this time, Prairie Five Senior Dining is not serving meals at the Community Center. “They are offering the delivery of hot meals though,” Wellendorf said. “I have heard of positive things from our members about Meals on Wheels; even the ones who used to come to the center for meals are enjoying having a visit when their meals are delivered. People are very grateful for that service!”

Even though the future of the pandemic is unclear, Wellendorf is looking toward a positive future for the Community Center. She said: “We’re really focused on what type of connections we have been making with our community members, and we are looking into ways we can enhance that moving forward. We’d like to move forward as a place where individuals of all ages can meet; we’re trying to appeal to everyone!”

Even though the opening of the Community Center is occurring at a slow pace, Wellendorf is confident that the needs of the community will be met. “We are hoping to eventually get into a schedule that is similar to the original schedule, if not the original schedule itself. For now, with the need to clean between groups and the need to reorganize the building, we’ll continue with the slow reopening,” she said.

For more information about the Community Center and its current hours and programs, please call 320-269-9375.