The Enrichment Centers Inc. of Hernando County has been providing resources and support to Hernando’s seniors for many years. With such a large senior population, there is a need for community resources. They offer a variety of activities for local seniors including board games, crafts, art classes, support groups, dancing, deaf services, rug hooking, tap dance, yoga and exercise, entertainment, and friendship. Yet earlier this week they had to stop all the fun and get down to business so that their home could serve the community in a different way. The Mining Association Enrichment Center building, located at 800 John Gary Grubbs Blvd., was used as a hurricane shelter for Tropical Storm Elsa.
The building itself is the refurbished former processing plant for the Brooksville Quarry. It is a solid cement building with thick walls. The building is expected to be able to survive even a strong hurricane.
As part of a $1.3 million grant, the Mining Association Enrichment Center building was reconstructed and repaired to bring the building up to shelter safety codes to serve as a special needs shelter. The project was completed in 2011. In times of emergency, it serves as a shelter for the people of Hernando County.
In light of the tropical storm approaching, the shelter opened on the morning of July 6. It was the only shelter opened in the county. There are extra bed cots and supplies in case they are needed. All of the supplies for the shelter operation comes from either the school district, the county, or the health department.
Barne’s role in the shelter is to provide the Enrichment Center as a safe place for shelter use. “ECI ensures that the facility has the required space for the Operation,” said Barnes.
“We work closely with the Health Department, EOC, Red Cross, and other entities to ensure that the shelter is always ready when needed.”
Ashley Thomas, Public Information Officer and chronic disease manager for the Florida Department of health in Hernando County explained, “The way that the shelter is set up is that it’s a multi-use shelter.” This means the shelter will hold the general population as well as pet-friendly and special-needs people. The Health Department oversees the special-needs side of the shelter. The School Board will oversee services for the general population. Ashley stated, “We are not expecting an exceedingly big amount of people to come, but as an abundance of caution we are prepared and here for folks who need it. The special-needs shelter is a place where you really don’t have other options. We recommend trying to stay with a family member or friend or neighbor if that’s a possibility. But if not, we are definitely here.”
The special-needs side of the shelter is for people who may need medical assistance or monitoring whether that may be an oxygen tank or refrigerated medication or they need to have electricity. It’s not for complex medical equipment or if someone needs medical attention from a hospital or nurse. To get in contact with someone about going to the shelter or to get more info they will need to call the special needs registry, public information line. The number is 352-754-4083. This line can also be used for people who need transportation to the shelter. “We really want to have those protective measures in place. We want to keep everyone safe,” said Thomas.
For people who do go to a shelter, they will need to bring their identification and some blankets and snacks that they would like to have overnight. Any medication, especially a list of those is helpful. A meal will be provided as well, but bringing some of your own food is encouraged. There will be some COVID-19 protocols in place, masks are optional but cleaning will be regular as well as social distancing. Please visit hernando.fl.health.gov for up-to-date information as well as the Hernando County government social media or the Florida Department of health social media.