For the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, local seniors are enjoying a free lunch — face-to-face — at the Pullman and Moscow senior centers.

“It feels great to see people sitting around talking and socializing,” said Bill Terrio, president of the Friendly Neighbors Senior Citizens, on Tuesday.

Terrio was sitting in the 1912 Center in Moscow where his team of volunteers served spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread and salad to hungry attendees.

At the time, only about a dozen people were eating, which is modest by the senior center’s standards. Terrio said anywhere from 40-70 people attended these lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays before COVID-19 pandemic.

The Moscow and Pullman senior centers had to shut down in-person meals and other activities in March 2020 because of the coronavirus.

They continued to serve food to seniors through delivery and take-out. Missing from that experience, though, was the opportunity for people to congregate with pals.

“It’s good to see all of our friends we haven’t seen for so long,” said Barbara Townsend as she sat with her husband, Ed Townsend at the 1912 Center.

Jim McCloskey, who joined them at their table, said he enjoys the people, volunteers and the food. He said these meals are mentally beneficial for those who have been stuck at home for so long.

In Pullman, JoAnn Penna said was happy to get out of the house with her husband, Floyd Penna, as they waited for their lunch Tuesday at the Pullman Senior Center.

“This is nice to get to be with people,” she said.

The Pullman Senior Center began hosting in-person meals again on May 25. The senior center is located in the new Pullman Recreation Center on Crestview Street after previously operating at the old City Hall building on Paradise Street.

Millie Flood, treasurer and co-president of the Pullman Senior Center, said the first meal on May 25 drew more than 50 people. Meals are served every Tuesday and Friday.

She said the visitors and the volunteers are excited to eat and serve meals in-person again, but there are still limitations because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Flood said there is a limit on how many people can sit at a table and they must stay seated during the meal. She is hoping those restrictions will no longer be necessary soon so that seniors can socialize freely.

“The mingling that they’re used to isn’t happening right now and that’s another thing we’re looking forward to,” Flood said.

Flood said she is also looking forward to bringing back all of the other activities and services offered by the senior center, which includes educational seminars, health classes and day trips among others. Friendly Neighbors recently started to offer its other activities such as computer help classes, card games and bingo games.

Despite the limitations, Flood said the response to having in-person meals again has been “very positive.”

For more information on the Pullman Senior Center meals, call (509) 338-3227. For information about Friendly Neighbors Senior Citizens meals, call (208) 882-1562.

Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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