San Jose Senior Center staff members said they were grateful to the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department (ALTSD) for reopening senior centers and adult day care facilities July 1 as COVID-19 restrictions across the state were lifted by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
ALTSD limited activities nearly 15 months ago after the first COVID-19 cases and deaths were recorded in New Mexico, read a news release from the state agency.
“It was really great, we’ve been waiting for this for a very longtime and so have they,” said San Jose Senior Manager Amparo Vasquez. “For some of our seniors it was hard not coming back to the Center.”
She said the San Jose Senior Center is the only outlet some Carlsbad seniors have.
“It was a day that we had been looking forward to for a long, long time. We’re just thankful and grateful that they got here,” Vasquez said.
ALTSD Cabinet Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez was excited for resumption of events and activities for senior citizens and others under the care of her department across New Mexico.
“Our seniors and our staff and our providers have not been sitting around. They have been contacting people who have been in their services for a long time. They just reach out and make sure they’re okay,” she said.
As the lunchtime crowd left the San Jose Senior Center Tuesday, Deborah Janway, program coordinator for the Southeast New Mexico Community Action Corporation (SENMCAC), finished up paperwork. Fifty-four seniors joined for lunch at the facility which she said averaged 110 people last year for drive thru food services.
“It was wonderful to see them laughing and smiling,” Janway said of Tuesday’s crowd.
She said 2020 presented challenges as the City of Carlsbad assisted SENMCAC with drive-thru meals. The City of Carlsbad operates San Jose Senior Center and SENMCAC oversees the senior meal program.
“We couldn’t do the drive-thru on our own,” Janway said.
She said food prices increased last year. But, SENMCAC did not increase its suggested donation of $2 for people 60 years and older.
She said the San Jose Senior Center is a place to congregate for Carlsbad’s elderly population.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure they are safe. It’s a safe place and they should come and see us,” she said.
Ronnie Echavarria, SENMCAC site supervisor, said the San Jose Senior offered more than meals for senior citizens of Carlsbad.
“We’d like to see them come down here. We need more clientele. We offer exercise equipment and we will have bingo pretty soon,” he said.
Hotrum-Lopez noted staffers at senior centers continued to wear masks even if fully vaccinated.
“COVID is not over. But we are so happy that senior citizens can engage and not be afraid and be back in the community thriving,” Hotrum-Lopez added.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.