BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — The Maumee Senior Center is this year’s recipient of the Hometown Hero Awards River Business Award, which is presented each year to a business or organization that has made a tangible, measurable difference within the Maumee community.
On the award nomination forms, supporters took note of how MSC staff members and volunteers go above and beyond every day to supply Maumee seniors with resources, entertainment and more.
Heather Cole sits on the board of trustees for the center and volunteers, so she’s seen the staff’s dedication firsthand.
“The team at the center, with masks and separation and all the stuff we had to go through (the past few years), they made it fun. It didn’t matter what job had to be done, everybody pitched in and did what needed to be done,” Cole said.
When COVID-19 forced a shutdown of all nonessential businesses, leadership at the senior center had to think quickly on how to serve their vulnerable population during the pandemic. Many members have come to rely on the center for lunches, socialization and more, so it was important to the staff and volunteers that they continued to provide those services during an uncertain time.
Malinda Ruble, MSC executive director, said the center took only a few days to plan the switch to home-delivered meals and then organized volunteers to make and deliver the food.
“We provided more than 20,000 meals within that first year, and normally we do 6,000 a year,” Ruble said.
Along with the food, the volunteers also delivered weekly activity packets that included crossword puzzles, chair exercises and inspiring words to help maintain seniors’ physical and mental health.
The thoughtfulness and extra touches were exactly what Cole was thinking of when she filled out the nomination form. The center, which she said had been a bustling place for seniors prior to the pandemic, was still thinking of ways to help and serve, even when the doors were closed.
“I can’t think of another organization in the community that, in the last handful of years with the pandemic, did as much outreach (within the community) that was so important during the pandemic. I think the efforts of the staff during that time are continuing to pay off because everyone really appreciated those efforts,” Cole said.
Now, the center is able to host lunches, fundraisers and classes in the building again, but the camaraderie felt at the beginning of the pandemic has stuck around, which is important to recognize, according to Cole.
“It doesn’t matter what your title is, everybody shares all the responsibilities for the different tasks at hand. I think it’s just a great team effort. They’re very good at collaboration,” Cole said. “There’s a real sense of community at the center from the staff to the volunteers at the front desk. It’s just a good place.”
The kind words from nominators like Cole have left Ruble grateful for the recognition. To the senior center staff and volunteers, the award is validation that their hard work is appreciated and they’re doing the right thing for seniors.
“I hope this serves as a great reminder to everyone that we’re here and we can help, no matter what your age, and that we also need your support to keep our doors open and provide these services,” Ruble said.
It’s not just seniors the center helps, Ruble explained. By providing transportation to and from the center and even for medical appointments, along with family-friendly events and caregiver support groups, the center helps Maumee citizens of all ages by easing responsibilities and building relationships.
Ultimately, that’s what makes the center a River Business Award-worthy organization, Ruble said, and the small staff of six along with volunteers are the ones who make it all possible.
“Everybody here puts the senior first,” Ruble said. “We always try to do everything we can to help them. By caring and providing services and making that little extra effort with the seniors, we are able to make an impact in the community.”
That impact includes the congregate and grab-and-go lunches, loaned equipment, transportation, exercise classes, arts and crafts activities, paperwork assistance, caregiver support groups, a café and so much more, Ruble said.
She knows that the seniors and their families who currently use the resources MSC provides are appreciative because they tell her all the time; however, Ruble hopes this award will remind more people of the services the center provides and encourages them to seek out the center sooner rather than later.
“When they decide they do need help, whether it’s something serious or they want to make friends or just get lunch, they should always come to the Maumee Senior Center first because we will connect them with the right resources,” Ruble said.
The Maumee Senior Center is located at 2430 S. Detroit Ave. in Maumee and can be reached by phone at (419) 893-1994 with more information also available on the website, maumeeseniorcenter.com.
The Maumee Senior Center, along with other award winners, will be honored at the annual Hometown Hero Awards Banquet on Thursday, March 2 at The Pinnacle, 1772 Indian Wood Circle, Maumee. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are still available at https://maumeechamber.com/hometown-hero-awards/.