Woodcarvers Association

Stan Jackson,  Marvin Jetton and Frank Turner, members of the Bell County Woodcarvers Association, work on pieces in 2016 at the Belton Senior Center.

BELTON — A group of woodcarvers — all vaccinated against COVID-19 — began meeting Monday at the Belton Senior Activity Center after more than a year of not being able to assemble.

The program is one of several that the nonprofit center is restarting this week as more senior residents get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Judy Owens, activity director at the center, said she is excited to see seniors get back to socializing.

Seniors, she said, “have suffered during the pandemic from the lack of social interaction. … Some people, they haven’t seen in a year.”

With the increase in local vaccinations, the center relaunched its woodcarving, quilting and other arts programs this week.

“If they weren’t vaccinated, we wouldn’t be doing this,” said Owens, who recently received her own vaccination doses.

Activities at the center, 842 Mitchell St., have been sparse since March 2020 when the state shut down because of the pandemic.

The six participants in the woodcarving class all received vaccinations, Owens said. Masks and social distancing are still encouraged at the center, but small groups of vaccinated seniors can take off their masks for some classes such as line dancing. Hand sanitizer is everywhere, she said.

Other activities will start up soon, Owens said. A Bible study group will start meeting at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays, beginning May 19. Tai chi classes are scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. June 7.

Owens said she is still looking for an instructor for an exercise class that would be held from 9 to 9:45 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Bingo, pot luck dinners and dances are expected to resume later this year, although dates are not set.

Owens said the center will aid seniors in scheduling appointments for vaccinations since many are confused about making appointments online. “We can help them,” she said.

The center has been helping seniors with food distributions from 11 a.m. to noon each Friday during the pandemic.

“Some still don’t want to go to the store, others have trouble doing online grocery orders,” Owens said.

The center provides between 50 and 60 bags of food each week. Items include bread, milk, meat, canned items, boxed macaroni and cheese, toilet paper and other essentials.

The Belton City Council provided two $25,000 grants — the first approved in November 2020, the second on March 23 — to the senior center for its food distributions, city spokesman Paul Romer said. The federal funds were provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“The food assistance program that was established by the center has been a resounding success,” a city staff report said.

The second grant will enable the center to continue the food distributions through the summer, the report said.

Owens said the center’s supporters have donated during the pandemic and she hopes to have a garage sale sometime in the summer.

Meanwhile, getting back to normal is the goal.

“We welcome folks to come back,” Owens said. “We welcome anybody. We have people come from Harker Heights, Moffat, other places come to Belton, so we’re glad when they show up.”