Senior center welcomes back residents with return of in-person meals program

After closing for 14 and a half months during the pandemic, Southold’s Senior Center hosted a lunch Monday that brought together town and county officials and grateful seniors glad to once again be able to enjoy a meal together.

“It’s so great to be back here again,” said Adam Doroski as he waited for lunch to be served. “Before COVID I came two or three times a week, then it was shut down. This is unbelievable to be back again. I am very grateful.”

Before the meal was served, center director Karen McLaughlin praised her staff, who managed to deliver thousands of meals to shut-in seniors despite the long COVID closure. 

For Mr. Doroski, this meant he could still receive meals while the center was shut down. “My granddaughter helped arrange it so I could get two and three meals a week all during COVID,” he said. “It was really a great thing.”

The center may have been closed, but the staff still cooked meals and delivered them or arranged for pick-ups, Ms. McLaughlin said. “This is so good to see everyone here,” she said. “We have missed you so much.”

If there is a success story in the more than a year of COVID-19 disruptions, it is Southold’s senior citizen program, which continued to run and provide services, including helping people make vaccination appointments online.

The staff and its efforts during the pandemic were praised by town Supervisor Scott Russell and county Legislator Al Krupski (D-Peconic), who both attended what felt like a grand reopening.

Mr. Russell pointed out that, all during the pandemic, meals were still prepared and delivered. “We got them to the homes where people needed help,” he said. He praised Ms. McLaughlin as “one of the most tireless people who has built this center into what it is.”

Looking out over the seniors who came for lunch, Mr. Russell added, “I just want you to know, you will never be overlooked.”

Mr. Krupski seconded the praise. 

“This is such an incredible resource,” he said. “So much goes on behind the scenes to run something like this.”

Also in attendance was Holly Rhodes-Teague, director of Suffolk County’s Office of the Aging. She said more than 4,000 meals were served across the county each week during the pandemic. “There was a great need, and we helped everyone we could,” she said.

After the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of “God Bless America,” a hot lunch was served.