A year ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread and Safer in Place orders took effect throughout Wisconsin, Waunakee facilities were forced to close. At the public library, Village Center and Senior Center, the directors were tasked with finding innovative ways to serve the community.
They spoke at the Feb. 25 Waunakee Rotary Zoom meeting, each relating the effects of the pandemic their operations.
The Waunakee Public Library had just opened in its new location seven months, its director, Erick Plumb said. The community were just beginning to make full use of the facility, and by midwinter of 2019, the library saw about 700-800 daily visitors and its programs attracted throngs of people
That changed in March of 2020. Reopening began in May with curbside service and then with grab-and-go materials offered in June. In the fall, the entire building reopened then closed again in  November.
It has remained open since Jan. 11 and is one of just two of 19 libraries to allow people nearly complete access to the building. Reopening in a safe way was important to Erick, he said, and to “respect the investment Waunakee has made in its library.”
Soon after the shut-town, librarian Brittany Gitzlaff began offering storytime online and that drew many families.
Author talks, book clubs and other programming are offered on Zoom now, and the outdoor spaces on the property can be used for studying or reading when weather allows. The patio to the rear of the building was equipped with furniture and shade. A story walk was added with picture books.
Many people are using the trails and playgrounds and fishing the Sixmile Creek nearby.
“Seeing what was a blighted in the center of transform into a hub of activity was wonderful,” Plumb added.
The community services director related a similar timeline. At the Village Center, Sue McDade said she and staff spent much of the first few months after the shutdown canceling programs. Staff used the time to repaint the building and complete other maintenance projects, along with training.
Special events, such as the Chalk Walk have been able to continue in new ways. It became Chalk the Kee. Similarly, the Light the Night with Santa was repurposed. The Village Center also offered a Halloween Contest, hosted blood drives, a Candlelight Hike and Heart Hunt scavenger hunt with the library.  Esports Leagues began, and other socially distanced activities continued. Waunakee’s parks became heavily used.
“Residents really realized what a value they have in each of their neighborhoods,” Sue said.
Now construction of a new fishing pier is underway at the Village Center Pond and a new playground at Heritage Hills, along with a list of upgrades to existing park facilities.
Prior to COVID at the Waunakee Senior Center, about 140 older adults visited daily for a variety of services, director Cindy Mosiman said. About 40 per day came for the nutrition program, the noon meal served at the center, and three times that number when music or other programs followed the lunch.
Dane County deemed the nutrition program an essential service, so the staff figured out how to safely provide the service without the eat-in meal. The daily Meals on Wheels delivery routes were increased from four to five. Volunteers stepped up to provide this service, including some of the older adults.
“We are the only senior center that has been able to deliver meals Monday through Friday continuously,” Cindy said.
The Meals on Wheels program also added a second meal later in the day to ensure that older adults with concerns about in-person shopping had shelf-stable food.
Meanwhile, the case managers helped older adults continue to live in their own homes and provided services, often just offering reassurance. The center also helped with Medicare Part D enrollment  often over the phone. Transportation was also provided.
Other news:
-The deck and on at the accessible pier. The club is waiting on the railings and will grade the path to it in the spring. Robert Arntz  has photographed its progress. Check out the  images on the Waunakee Rotary Club Runner site.
-A meeting will be held next week to determine volunteer needs and more for the Easter Egg Hunt March 27.
-Club members can nominate the Businessperson of the Year. Robert Arntz has been sending emails.
Birthdays: None
Anniversaries: None.