Colonial Club is curtailing its senior group activities after Gov. Evers last week advised people to stay at home and limit contact with others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

That will mean no bingo, movies and exercise classes that were so popular most had waiting lists to get in. But Colonial Club Executive Director Bob Power said the cancellations made sense with record high COVID cases in Wisconsin.

“We take this virus seriously,” Power said. “Our mission is to maintain the health, well-being and independence of older adults. If we were encouraging them to ignore the best medical advice, we would be derelict in our duties.”

Older adults and people with serious medical conditions are at higher risk for the COVID-19 virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Seniors are more likely to have serious complications, be hospitalized and be readmitted after being discharged.

Colonial Club will continue with its essential services- delivering meals to seniors, operating the adult daycare center, and case management, which is seeing higher demand. Seniors can also still book appointments to use the computer lab, wood shop and exercise room. Power said those activities are limited to one person with cleaning done after each session.

Colonial Club shut its doors to the public after Gov. Evers issued his stay-at-home order in March and stayed closed until late June. The organization started up limited group activities with COVID-19 safety protocols this summer until those shut down last week.

While some seniors are facing greater isolation created by the COVID-19 restrictions, Powers said the Colonial Club staff calls members every week to check up on them and provide resources. Powers said the phone calls, although not as ideal as one-on-one connection, helps Colonial Club staffers maintain a relationship with its senior members.

Seniors can also tune in to “The Commentator” show that features Colonial Club news and features. The show is on Spectrum Channel 983, TDS Channel 13 and 1013 or archived on KSUN at ksun.tv.

Power said it’s important to help seniors who may feel disconnected because they can’t see their friends and families and don’t have the resources to tune in to digital resources. Federal health experts report that social isolation of seniors during the pandemic is a real concern.

The daily home delivery meals also provide a link to the outside community. Seniors who usually had their meals on-site now take part in the program. Powers said meals have increased by 30-40 a week since the pandemic started.

Residents in Sun Prairie, Cottage Grove, Marshall, Burke, Bristol, Deerfield, York and Medina get meals delivered.

With the holidays coming up quickly, the Colonial Club will give out Thanksgiving meals during a Nov. 24 drive-thru distribution.

“We just want to make sure that everyone who needs a Thanksgiving meal will get one,” Power said.

A $7 donation is requested for those who can afford it to help cover costs.

The Colonial Club has also opened up a holiday online gift shop selling items popular with its members. There are light-up necklaces, Uncle Bob’s sweater bottle koozies, charms, and of course, especially for a COVID Christmas, holiday face masks. Sales benefit the Colonial Club and its programming for seniors.

Demand up, funds down

More funds are needed to support the higher demand Colonial Club is facing during the COVID-19, and as Dane County sees the senior population growing.

Colonial Club started out this year $50,000 in the hole when United Way pulled its funding from the organization. Powers said the notification came late in 2019 after the Colonial Club budget was done.

The Dane County 2020 budget hasn’t been finalized but the Colonial Club funding should remain the same, Power said.

After not requesting an increase for the Colonial Club for more than a decade, Power said he began to ask the City of Sun Prairie and other municipalities for more funding four to five years ago.

The city has increased funding recently but there has been no news on 2021 funding. The city council is expected to adopt the 2021 city budget at its Nov. 17 meeting. The towns have either passed budgets or are in the final processes.

“I have asked the towns and the city for additional money but I have not heard back from them,” Power said last week.

Om Monday, the Cottage Grove Village Board approved an additional $4,000 in funding for the Colonial Club.

The Colonial Club also faced a hit this year as COVID-19 canceled all its in-person fundraisers. Power said revenue from fundraising events is down 75 percent. One of its largest, Strawberry Fest, was scaled down to a drive-thru event.

The Colonial Club recently kicking off its annual campaign asking donors for money, Powers said to get some needed funds.

Colonial Club was gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year but COVID-19 postponed it. Power said if the pandemic subsides by next year, it will have two things to celebrate next year.

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