The recreation division of the Town of Fountain Hills Community Services Department has for almost a year now been working through the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain activities and education programs geared toward serving the residents of the community.
“The Community Services department had to cancel many events in 2020 due to the pandemic, such as Irish Fountain Fest, Music Fest, Back to School Bash, Fourth at the Fountain, Elfie’s Playground Palooza and Eggstravaganza,” said Recreation Manager Linda Ayres. “Challenges like these drive the staff to innovate and find new ways to engage the community in a safe manner.
“We collaborated as a team to come up with some of our ideas and researched industry trends for programming during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Beginning in April 2020, staff developed a series of virtual programs for the public. Those include Kids Virtual Talent Show, Pet Virtual Talent Show, Pet Stories Video, Get to Know Your Community Service’s Staff Videos and a series of Virtual Family Trivia Nights. There have been three of the trivia games over the past year, with a fourth scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 18.
“We plan to continue the Virtual Family Trivia Night program and offer another one in early summer,” Ayres said. “In addition, this spring we are going to add the social media video series, ‘How has Fountain Hills Community Services programs, events, facilities, or parks impacted you and your family?’
“In addition, we developed several resources for virtual programs for the community.”
There are additional new programs and ideas set to launch later this spring including a Recycled Art Contest, Fountain Hills 50K Challenge and an afterschool sports program for various ages.
There was also a series of adventure hunts to keep families entertained, including:
*Fountain Hills Treasure Hunt – there is treasure to be had here in Fountain Hills and 10 families completed the hunt and prizes were awarded to three finishers at random.
*The Great Fountain Heist – someone is planning to steal the Fountain in Fountain Park. There was a list of 10 suspects that participants worked through to solve the case. Twelve families solved the case and prizes were awarded to three finishers at random.
*Elfie’s Holiday Hunt –A holiday event all could enjoy as they searched the town to find clues and solve puzzles. This hunt was the most challenging of the adventure hunts, with 35 registered and 12 families completing the hunt. Again, prizes were awarded at random to three participants.
The town also partnered with the Boys & Girls Club to present the Fountain Hills Spooky Blast on Halloween.
Families were invited to dress for Halloween and visit a photo booth and a haunted house. Crafts and games hosted by community partners were held outside in Centennial Circle.
There were 200 registered for the event and nearly 250 attended.
A new way to enjoy the Christmas holidays and socially distance was offered by the town with its Light the Town Holiday Drive.
With Avenue of the Fountain decorated with lights and holiday fixtures, the town invited residents to join in a Holiday Drive to enjoy colorful decorations community-wide.
The event started with a drive along the Avenue and continued out through the town to view homes entered in the holiday decoration contest. There were 22 homes participating and 182 people took the drive and voted for their favorite.
Additionally, the town was able to maintain the joy of the holidays with its Season’s Celebration Holiday Event in December. Over two nights, with four sessions each night to allow for social distancing, residents were able to enjoy the trees, wreaths and quilts on display at the Community Center. There was also live music, craft stations, photos with Santa, a letters to Santa station, Reindeer Food Stations as well as the “Polar Express” movie showing.
There were 241 Residents who attended this holiday event, according to Ayres. This will become an annual holiday event hosted by the Community Service Department.
A favorite family activity presented by the Town has always been Movie in the Park, and staff found a way to safely present a movie in October.
According to organizers, the socially-distanced Movie in the Park was a success. Family “pods” were marked on the field at Four Peaks Park, all 12 feet apart. Staff estimates that between 100 and 150 participated.
The Town has hosted two Senior Softball Tournaments at Golden Eagle Park since the pandemic began. Staff implemented strict COVID Guidelines that all teams and spectators were required to follow in order to participate.
The town was able to accommodate 41 teams between two tournaments and collected data on the positive impacts this had for local businesses.
There were 28 teams registered for a tournament held in late January.
Along with that, the town has been able to coordinate and host two 65+ Senior Softball Leagues through the pandemic. Each season had six teams participate.
Staff was also able to develop outreach programs geared specifically toward needs brought on by the pandemic, as well as maintain ongoing programs.
Care Card was developed to help homebound seniors stay connected, while reminding them they are cared for and not forgotten.
“Care Card is a great way for our community to get creative and brighten a homebound senior’s day,” Ayres said. “Care Card works with schools, civic organizations, faith groups and individuals to create greeting cards with positive messaging.”
The greeting cards are delivered to Fountain Hills’ homebound seniors in assisted and independent living communities, as well as seniors participating in the Home Delivered Meals and Give a Lift programs.
“In the 10 months since we have launched the Care Card program, we have received over 1,600 donated greeting cards from the Fountain Hills Community,” Ayres said.
Currently, the Care Card outreach is going to first responders with a Thank You Card Drive.
The Town of Fountain Hills Give a Lift program provides transportation to Fountain Hills residents that are physically disabled and/or age 65 and older.
Organizers said Give a Lift rides are more than just transportation to all those who need this program. It means an opportunity for better healthcare, continued independent living and a social connection to the community.
“The volunteer drivers for Give a Lift not only make a difference in the lives of our residents who need this program, but in their own lives as well,” Ayres said.
Give a Lift was deemed an essential program in April of 2020. Volunteers and staff have worked together through the COVID pandemic to ensure Give a Lift clients would have access to transportation for essential needs (medical appointment, pharmacy, grocery store). Give a Lift fulfilled 128 Rides from April 2020 to Dec. 2020.
“During the time we have been closed with no activities, we still have made an impact on the community,” Ayres said. “Home Delivered Meals has continued without interruption.
“At one point we even expanded HDM to a second route on weekends to accommodate the increased demand for the program.”
As programs were brought back in limited numbers, Geri-Fit was introduced, Peer-led Exercise continued twice a week, Spanish lessons were held and Table Talk for Women took place on the Community Center’s back patio.
Also returning is Bingo, Swingtime, Golden Age of Radio, Ping Pong, Memoir Group, weekly movie and Ukulele. Great Decisions also returned but was separated into two sessions to keep the class numbers small. NASA Solar Ambassador Ted Blank did a presentation via Zoom and staff was able to stream to the ballrooms for people who did not have computer access or wanted to attend in person.
Alzheimer’s Support continued to meet and online access to additional support groups was made available.
The Hooks and Needles ladies continued to make items for charity and used the Community Center as a drop-off spot. Medicare consultations were held via phone. The Activity Coordinators checked in via phone and emailed members to see how they were doing.
Blood drives were also held in the grand ballroom with each day being full. The operations staff continually cleaned and sanitized the facility to ensure guidelines were met and patrons feel safe.