KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — 2020 was a difficult year to socialize, make friends and see the people we love the most, and this was especially hard on the senior community at the Wesley House Community Center in North Knoxville who had to wait 16 months to see their friends again.
Every Friday, Ollie Browner in Lonsdale boards a bus outside her home to go to the Wesley House Community Center in North Knoxville.
“I look forward for that, because I don't have nothing to do,” the 76-year-old said.
Dozens of other women in the Granny Program, are picked up at their homes in Mechanicsville, Lonsdale and Beaumont, and driven to the Wesley House for lunch, fellowship, and bingo.
Kara Finger, the executive director at the Wesley House, said their seniors missed their community.
“When COVID hit in March of 2020, we made the really difficult decision to stop and suspend all meetings all in person meetings, and switched to grocery delivery,” Finger said. “During the suspension, the Wesley House lost five seniors in our program… we believe that social isolation played a part in the quick decline that they experienced.”
The suspension ended after more than 80% of the seniors got vaccinated for COVID-19.
“There was pure joy, pure excitement, a few screams, a few tears,” Finger said. “We haven't lost any more of our seniors since we've started meeting back.”
The special room at the Wesley House is called the “Babe Cave,” where the ladies socialize, eat lunch and play bingo for household essentials like paper towels and tide pods.
“Bingo,” echoes throughout the Babe Cave, as ladies danced their way to the prize table.
“I don’t get to socialize with people my age much,” said Beverly Gilmer. “This is like my family here.”
The Wesley House Community Center offers other services including a food pantry and child care for schoolchildren.
Interested community members can call the Wesley Center at 865-524-5494 for more information on how to be included in these services.