EVERETT, Wash. — It's Tuesday, and Lucille Debose knows just where she wants to be.
The pandemic kept Lucille confined to her home. She missed her church and friends, which is why she's so happy to be at Everett's Carl Gipson Senior Center.
The weekly gathering is put together by Homage Senior Services and is funded by Snohomish County.
"It's a connection, just not having to be home all the time," says the 89-year-old.
People gather to get information about everything from registering to vote, to health insurance and getting relief from rising property taxes.
They sit down together for lunch, but mostly, they just play board games, talk and enjoy each other's company.
"This way we feel free to talk about anything we want to talk about," said Lucille, a retired elementary school teacher. "It keeps our brains sharp so we recognize each other when we come in."
The program is specific to elders in the African-American community, but all are welcome.
Brieanna Capers leads the outreach and says it's about building trust.
"Because it has been such an underserved community for so long, I think that trust has been broken," she says. "Right now, I'm physically seeing it being rebuilt."
Homage's partnership with Snohomish County is also making mental health counseling available.
Loneliness and isolation brought on by the pandemic can lead to everything from higher blood pressure to higher rates of mortality.
Lead mental heath counselor Nancy Brosemer believes the program is very good medicine.
"Depression lessens, anxiety lessens," she says. "Just to physically see someone's face, that's a big thing now."
Brosemer says she still sees plenty of people afraid to socialize, still stuck in their pandemic ruts, but the simple act of being around others can change all that.
"Everybody here, you're gonna see smiles on their face," she said. "Some people are reluctant at first, but we walk them through it. We just want to get them to try it one time, and that's usually all it takes."
Homage is offering short-term counseling and will connect people with long-term counseling, as well. The organization accepts Medicare, where some private counselors do not.
So as she rolls the dice during another round of Parcheesi, this is where you'll find Lucille Debose and her friends every Tuesday.
Lucille knows the game of life is best played when you have a good team to connect with.
"I just always have something to do or something to learn," she says. "I'm always looking forward to that."
For more information about the program, contact Brieanna Capers at firstname.lastname@example.org.