The Community Center in Boothbay Harbor recently opened for the first time since it closed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since 2015, the center has endeavored to create a communal space for all ages to socialize and learn in volunteer-run classes. The facility has a welcoming lobby, arts and crafts room, resource room and more. Down the hall, an exercise annex and fiber arts room for knitting, crocheting, sewing and more, have yet to reopen.
Center President Shawn Lewin explained it was a hard decision to close the center and “not encourage (the) socializing” that is a goal of the Center, but it was important to reduce the COVID-19 risk for attendees.
The Center continued to support the community during the pandemic through social programs. Center volunteers ran errands and drove people to appointments as part of People Helping People (PHP). PHP caters to people who are homebound, isolated, or lack transportation. The Durable Medical Equipment Program also provided donated medical and accessibility supplies like canes, shower chairs, hospital beds, etc. to community members.
Lewin said the Center had help from Nathan’s Pharmacy, serving people and coordinating arrangements for medical supplies. The Center also set up an outside free food table from the surplus items received from the food pantry.
In addition, the Center tried to stay in contact with members through informal phone calls, emails and Facebook messages.
“These people have become sort of (an) extended family. Some people are in here every day during the week so there's a constant connection. People are interested in how you're feeling, how's it going,” said Lewin. “It was very much encouraged to keep in touch with each other and let us know if you need anything, and we were able to provide whatever assistance we could for people who had any problems during (the pandemic).”
However, he said the excitement over reopening has been dampened by personal loss.
“We did lose some of our very close friends, and it's been a little difficult to deal with. So, we’ll notice that more over the next few weeks as people come in and we see some empty chairs that were pretty much always filled by some of our regular people,” said Lewin.
The Center plans to update activities and classes available as the COVID-19 situation changes. The hope is that by fall the Center will be back to its full operations. For now, knitting, cribbage, mindfulness and the Boothbay writers group are some of the classes available.
“We're not anxious to have people come until they're comfortable to be here, but we're making it open and available and welcoming,” said Lewin. “We expect that over the next couple of weeks through word of mouth and so forth, people will begin coming back.”
The Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Volunteers are needed. If interested, call 633-6290.