When COVID-19 first came on the scene, not many dreamed that it would still be curtailing our lives and routines when Christmas 2020 rolled around.
At Iverson Court, staff and tenants experienced a lot of anxiety at first but they were able to adapt relatively quickly to a new way of life. They all wear masks in common areas and only one person uses the elevator and laundry room at a time. Hand washing is a frequent fact of life, and people know to keep their distance from each other.
Megan Hanson, Program Coordinator, says that staff held a quick meeting when COVID hit to examine the new reality at Iverson. There would be fewer available staff members at Iverson, a new one-on-one schedule for supporting tenants, and the realization that life as they knew it was going to be totally different. Staff had to focus on providing essential services and education about sanitary precautions. Early on, little was was known about the virus and how it was passed, so Iverson staff took up doing all the grocery shopping for those they supported. Since then, tenants have resumed getting their own groceries, albeit with a number of additional safety precautions. “When tenants were suddenly out of work because of closures and program changes,” Megan says “they were disappointed, but everyone still got up in the morning and looked for ways to keep busy.” Now, most are back at work and they are very good at following safety protocols.
When summer came, staff added more lawn chairs outside so tenants could enjoy the weather and socialize with each other from a distance. They set up fun activities outdoors like tie-dying where tenants could sign up for individual sessions. When colder weather forced people back inside, tenants and staff used technology to keep in touch. HCO secured grants that paid for some iPads for individuals, and everyone became very tech savvy in a hurry. Video calls became the new way to keep in touch with each other. HCO began to offer Zoom Bingo across programs, and Iverson also had their own Christmas Bingo games with tenants. It has been so popular that they are considering Valentine Bingo, too.
Celebrating the Holidays
But how would people still find ways to celebrate the holidays? Staff and tenants knew that their traditions would have to change to accommodate the virus. State recommendations discouraged family gatherings, so they decided to bring the Christmas spirit to the Iverson community instead. They held a door-decorating contest, which brought out the artist in many of them. They voted on the best ones, with prizes for the winners. Everyone liked the contest so much that they plan to make it a yearly tradition. They did ornament making crafts with staff sanitizing equipment between sessions. The ornaments were hung in the community room. They had Secret Santas and intend to continue that tradition, too. Steak Shop catered holiday meals that were delivered to each apartment. They played “guess the Christmas carol line,” and had a photo booth in the hallway that people could take turns using. They did drawings for prizes, announcing contest winners to tenants throughout the day. Staff got into the spirit, too, and everyone had a great time.
Everyone at Iverson is looking forward to the day that they can resume their normal lives doing things like going to movies, shopping, and going out to eat. Even though they’ve missed some of their normal holiday traditions like Christmas parties and going to see the Rotary Lights together, on the bright side, they have found new talents, created new traditions, and continued to weather the pandemic – together.