After the COVID-19 pandemic hit Indiana, Carver Community Center Executive Director Dantá Rogers reacted quickly to protect his staff and community members from the virus.
Paying close attention to the guidelines set by the governor and local government officials, the facility began gradually closing down activities with large groups and any sporting events. The center officially shut down temporarily on March 16, and Rogers knew it would not be an easy setback.
“The setback means bills still came in, lower obviously because we were closed. The moneys, as far as what you get for grants, they just don’t cover enough to cover for our expenses. We were applying for small business loans just to help us get through times, challenging times, and these unusual times. You’ve never been here. You’ve never done anything like this,” Rogers said.
Carver Community Center slowly reopened its doors the last week of April. Ahead of then, he laid off staff temporarily, while he worked from home, only coming to the center to check the mail. For a little more than a month, Rogers said it was a struggle not knowing where the center was going to be in a few months without any events, programs, or fund raisers.
“You sitting here thinking, you didn’t know the future of the center. That was scary to me as an executive director because you don’t want the center to go down underneath your name or anything to happen whether it’s COVID-19 or any other situation. You just don’t want that to happen on your watch. I struggled with it. Hopefully we’ll never see it again,” Rogers said.
Since reopening, Rogers said he has been extra cautious about the cleaning and sanitation of the building, as well as ensuring the numbers of community members in the building remain even lower than recommended by the governor. Rogers said the reasoning was due to only having seven people on staff and knowing that if one staff member were to be infected, it would cause another immediate shut down of the center.
Staff members were trained on proper hygiene, sanitation, and social distancing methods after returning to work, Rogers said. The only programs that opened back up were basketball, pickleball, and art. Due to the popularity of pickleball in the elderly community at Carver Community Center, Rogers said it was a challenge trying to keep numbers down to 12 people per session while also encouraging consistent hygiene and social distancing for a high-risk group of people.
“They had the hand sanitizer, washed their hands before they come in. Our balls and everything was clean every night. In between the game they had to hand sanitize. That’s high-risk people,” Rogers said. “They’ve been in for two months. The phone was ringing off the hook every day about, ‘What are you going to offer?’ ‘When are you going to open back up?’ I get it, but I got to be cautious.”
Players could sign up for the pickleball sessions on Facebook on a first-come, first-serve basis. For basketball, the courts were open to walk-ins when the hours were available but with no more than five people on a court at a time, according to Rogers.
During the shutdown, gym floors were cleaned and redone with the donation of equipment, supplies, and labor from Kokomo School Corp. Rogers thanked the administrative and janitorial staffs for their generosity.
Since phase four of the Indiana Back-on-Track stages set by Gov. Eric Holcomb, Rogers said he allowed approximately double the amount of basketball and pickleball players on the courts. Additionally, he said there will be plans to open up the adult basketball league soon, after having to cancel the league after the first game in March. One spectator per player will be allowed, Rogers said, while still following the governor’s guidelines of hand sanitizing, mask-wearing, and distancing themselves on the bleachers. However, still not being able to bring in any income will be hard, he said.
“You’re talking about being closed for two months and basketball being the big thing we do here. We can’t charge admission at the door. We can’t run concessions. We can’t do anything that helps bring in a good amount of income into Carver. That hurts. That’s even hurting us now,” Rogers said.
Rogers said the plan to stay at the numbers on the basketball and pickleball courts likely will remain low throughout this month. However, there are plans to begin reopening more programs later this month, including a basketball camp beginning July 13. Additionally, he said staff is currently working on opportunities for fund raisers soon, including a potential golf outing in August to help make up financially for the loss of basketball activities over the last few months.
“We’re just thinking outside the box. I think as long as we’re doing something, we’re going to be OK,” Rogers said.
The annual fall boxing tournament at Carver Community Center likely will be canceled, Rogers said. Since no public boxing matches are permitted without a doctor present, medical professionals stated there likely would be no boxing shows until a COVID-19 vaccine is available, according to him.
Rogers said Carver Community Center also likely will recommend wearing masks, using the electric hand-sanitizing stations all over the building, and other cautionary measures until 2021. However, he wanted the community to be aware that the center was open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and that he was working to safely reopen more programs soon, especially educational programs for students.
“I just want the community to know that we are open. Kids can come here throughout the day, and we’ll find something for them to do. We do have programs for adults in our equipment room. Our exercise rooms are back open. Our boxing is limited to what we can do down there. But a person can get away and just come here to get out of the house or whatever,” Rogers said.