Taking it to go: Senior citizens adapt to curbside service at Project Heart

Project Heart, Stillwater's senior lunch program has been distributing meals via a drive-through model for more than a year out of concern about COVID-19. Stillwater Community Center director Stephanie Kinder is shown helping to deliver lunch to Project Heart regular Norman Manning in March 2020. Michelle Charles/Stillwater News Press

Project Heart, Stillwater’s senior lunch program, was set to open its dining room this coming Monday after having it closed for more than a year. But that much-anticipated re-opening has been delayed until next month.

Project heart closed its dining room in March 2020 – early in the COVID-19 pandemic – to protect its diners, who are among the most medically vulnerable.

In-house dining was discontinued at all Project Heart sites in Oklahoma. At the time, it was hoped they would be shut down for only a few weeks.

Meals at Stillwater’s Project Heart will continue to be distributed via the drive-through model it has been using for the past 16 months and through home delivery, which continued with social distancing precautions during the pandemic.

The meal program has served about 110-115 people a day during the shut down.

Program manager Janet Verner looks forward to once again welcoming seniors to the Project Heart dining room. It has long been a place people who might otherwise feel isolated could gather with old friends or make new ones.

“It’s nourishment for the mind and the body,” she said when the closure was announced. “… Being in your house 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a strain on a person, especially a senior citizen.”

In-person dining won’t be possible until at least August 2, Verner said.

The drainage system in the cafeteria kitchen needed repairs, which meant the floor had to be torn out. It disrupted normal operations and Project Heart staff hasn’t been able to prepare meals for the past three weeks.

Instead, the program has been been distributing a package of five pre-prepared frozen meals per diner.

That will continue for a few more weeks.

Staff and volunteers will distribute the meals 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. July 21 and 28. Home delivering diners will also get their meals in one delivery per week.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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