POTTSVILLE — The five county senior community centers temporarily closed their doors Monday and will remain shut through the holidays due to COVID-19.

The centers — in Mahanoy City, Pottsville, Schuylkill Haven, Shenandoah and Tremont — provide important places for seniors to stop in during weekdays to chat with friends and make new ones, eat, play cards, read newspapers and socialize, which in itself is the most important thing that a center provides.

Barring any unforeseen issues, the centers will reopen on Jan. 4.

Debbie Herb is the coordinator of the senior centers operated by Diakon Community Services for Seniors, which runs the centers under a contract with the Schuylkill County Office of Senior Services with funding provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging.

“We hate to put that sign up on the door that we’re closed,” Herb said. “It’s heartbreaking for all of us to even think that our doors are closed.”

The centers provide social contact at every time of the year, but the Christmas season is a special time for what they provide.

“For some of our seniors, we are who they have,” Herb explained. “On that note, we need to keep their health and safety on the top of our priority list. They will still get phone calls twice a week to check on them. For the past two weeks they haven’t been eating at the centers. They’ve been taking their meals home with them. Those who wanted to continue to get meals were again put on Meals On Wheels so no one goes hungry. We will feed the physical and emotional needs.”

Any senior can talk about what they need during the phone calls, and the contacts from Diakon who speak with them can notice changes in the voice and realize they may need assistance from the Office of Senior Services.

The Meals On Wheels program is doing well, but as always, new volunteers are always welcome.

“As the numbers of deliveries go up, the need for volunteers goes up,” Herb said. “It works out well. We have a great team of staff and volunteers and we have a good system.”

Despite the ongoing challenges in dealing with the pandemic restriction, Herb has a positive outlook on the future activities at the centers.

“We have so many things that we look forward to planning,” Herb said. “We have all those new computers that our seniors haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy them like they should.

“There are good times ahead that we pray for and we want all of our seniors to return.”

Even though the centers are closed for the Christmas season, Herb hopes that conditions will allow some normalcy that the centers will be able to have a wonderful “Christmas in July” celebration.

Anyone with questions about the senior centers may call 570-624-3016. For inquiries about being added for Meals On Wheels deliveries or to volunteer to make deliveries, call 570-624-3014.

Contact the writer:; 570-628-6023