Pandemic not stopping Rock River Center


OREGON – It has been a tough year for everyone, but that doesn’t mean organizations that help the public could simply stand by.

That was the case with Rock River Center in Oregon, which continued to serve seniors in the county through a variety of programs – even though there were some changes.

Jamie Nobis, executive director of the Center, sat down to answer some questions about the challenges and how her organization is moving forward.

Question: How has Rock River Center been coping? Are your programs slowly coming back?

Answer: Last year when there was still a great deal of uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 virus most of our in-person services were temporarily suspended for the spring and early summer out of an abundance of caution. Rock River Center has been following IDPH guidelines and Governor Pritzker’s Restore Illinois Mitigation plan. As our region has moved through the phases we have gradually expanded our services. Our staff and volunteers have been resourceful in finding new ways to continue to serve the community. Our caseworkers have been taking appointments via telephone and curbside service for assistance with Tax Assessment Freeze, License Plate Discount, and Medicare Open Enrollment just to name a few. 

It has required a little extra effort and time but we have been able to continue to provide this much needed assistance. Transportation services have continued throughout as people have still required transportation to medical appointments, shopping and other essential trips.  To allow for social distancing buses have limited capacity. Thanks to Lee-Ogle Transportation System we have had protective shields installed in the buses and we have been able to coordinate rides when necessary to get individuals where they need to go. Activities were limited per IDPH guidelines in 2020. 

Congregate dining remains suspended but Rock River Center Staff and our outstanding volunteers have served an average of 150 meals during each of our Free Lunch Fridays sponsored by The Etnyre Foundation. Due to COVID, the Free Lunch Friday has been drive through only since July. Beginning in April we will have a limited amount of indoor dining available in addition to the drive thru option.  As positivity rates in our area have decreased, we have resumed many of our regularly scheduled activities and support groups.  Rock River Center has seen a significant increase in participation in 2021 following the availability of the COVID vaccination. It is great to see more of our regular groups returning to the center. 

Q: What have you heard from the people who use your services? 

A: Our clients have been very appreciative for our continued services during the pandemic. Many have expressed that they feel safe returning to Rock River Center due to the precautions put in place such as requiring masks and temperature checks. We are very thankful to the City of Oregon for providing masks, sanitizer and wipes available at Rock River Center to anyone who needs them. 

Q: Even when it is over, has the pandemic changed the way you operate permanently? For example, will you offer more Web-based offerings moving forward?

A: Much good has come from exploring new ways to do business. I hope we are able to return to our roving sites and resume in person appointments with caseworkers soon. We will continue to offer appointments via telephone and have become much more efficient at providing assistance in a variety of ways. The Alzheimer’s Association has continued to provide our clients with programming via webinars when meeting in person was not possible. 

Q: Is the What's Cookin' event cancelled again this year? If so, how do you make up that loss of money you get from that popular fundraiser?

A: Unfortunately, we are still unable to host What’s Cookin’ in 2021. Barnacopia has been excellent to work with and we have a guaranteed date of April 16, 2022. Our staff and volunteers have made items that have been available for purchase to help raise money for Rock River Center in the absence of our two largest fundraisers (What’s Cookin’ and Summer Picnic). Some of the items that have been available this year include Creative Crafts, Christmas Gift Boxes, and Valentine’s Day treats. In January we held a meat bundle raffle thanks to the generous donation of the meat bundle by Wilmarth Farm. We currently have a beautiful Log Cabin House for sale that was put together and donated by a member of our Wood Carvers, Gary Monnahan.  Donors have continued to support our Holiday Appeal and Membership drives. We will also be including a donation envelope in our April/May newsletters for anyone who wishes to continue to support the mission of Rock River Center this spring in the absence of What’s Cookin.’

Q: What do people need to know about the Center currently, and its future?

A: The mission of Rock River Center, Inc. is to provide resources, activities and services that improve the quality of life for Ogle County’s older adults, the disadvantaged, caregivers, and the greater community. Our Board of Directors, staff and volunteers are dedicated to ensuring these services continue despite any challenges we may face. We are blessed to be a part of a community that has come together during difficult times to find new ways of doing business and support each other. Thank you to our seniors who are returning to the Center for activities. We are so happy to see everyone again!