Point Defiance ~ Ruston Senior Center Steps Up During Pandemic to Help Those in Need

group of green grocery bags

The Point Defiance ~ Ruston Senior Center, which is operated by Franke Tobey Jones, in a normal year provides thousands of Pierce County seniors with educational classes, exercise classes, card games, outings, daily meals, camaraderie, and a place to connect and be with friends.  When the pandemic hit and the Senior Center doors had to close, Kate Gray, Director of the Senior Center, literally jumped into action.


To help keep seniors engaged, active and moving, one of the first things Kate started doing was making and sharing videos, a brand-new skill she learned basically overnight and continues to hone.  In a typical week she records about six videos, many with volunteer instructors and participants that come to the Senior Center to be video’ d.  These videos are posted on the Franke Tobey Jones website, the Point Defiaince ~ Ruston Senior Center Facebook page as well as on YouTube.  To date since the pandemic began in March 2020, nearly 700 videos have been posted, 256 made and edited by Kate including 24 different types of videos.  Also, 51,000 videos (duplicated) have been sent to Senior Center participants via email.  Anyone can take advantage of these videos that are organized in three categories on the FTJ website:

  • Exercise videos (74 videos) including dance, strength and balance, stretch and movement, Tai Chi, Yoga, Dance Gold Zumba and miscellaneous exercise videos.
  • Entertainment videos (175 videos)
  • Educational (over 400 videos) including topics like animals; art and drawing; brain and brain games; calligraphy; economy and money; food, cooking, canning and wine; gardens and flowers; health; history; local and Washington State topics; military, museums; music; planes, flying and space; puzzles and brain games; science and math; sports; travel and miscellaneous.

Email Communication

Kate has also kept in touch with our Senior Center participants through her comprehensive weekly newsletter.  She has been doing this since March 2020, and in total has sent nearly 9,000 emails that included 193,893 brain games (about 700 per person), nearly 28,000 educational videos and 23,000 entertainment videos.  These numbers are duplicated.  This weekly communication includes COVID announcements, FTJ Senior University class descriptions and links, Wheel of Fortune questions, Riddles, Jokes, Fact(s) of the Day, journaling, Quote(s) of the Day, Life Principle of the Day, Words of the Week, Name that Synonym, Test Your Vocabulary, Word Scrabble, Video links, Name That Place, Do You Know? Quiz, Comics, Mazes, Sudoku, Name that Character, Name that Tune, Mandalas to color, Name that Breed, Name That Actor/Actress, Name that Galaxy, and Where’s Waldo.   If you would like to receive Kate’s updates, email her at


Catholic Community Services provides meals for the Point Defiance ~ Ruston Senior Center, and this has not stopped during the Pandemic.  Instead of eating inside, a drive through was set up, and has been operating since March 2020.  Six wonderful volunteers have served more than 1,500 hours and prepared 4,697 meals that were served by drive thru.

Wellness Check-In Calls

As part of the Point Defiance ~ Ruston Senior Center Wellness Call Service, five volunteers perform community service.  Since COVID began, 7,000 telephone calls adding up to 6,955 volunteer hours, have been made to check on the Senior Center participants to make sure they are doing okay.   Some examples of how Kate and her volunteers have helped seniors:

  • Picked up items at the store for them.
  • Shopped for dog food because the person was going to be away.
  • Called the person’s emergency contact number if they can’t get hold of the participant.
  • Driven people to doctor’s appointments.
  • Found someone to do a participant’s yard work.
  • Taken meals to people’s homes, though they don’t publicize this.
  • Whatever they can help with they do. If it’s within reach, they will assist.

Gift Cards, Food, Essentials

Furthermore, $5,200 has been raised by Franke Tobey Jones residents and staff that have been used to purchase gift cards, food and essential items for Senior Center participants.  These items are given out in the drive-through meal service typically on special occasions like Christmas, ‘Souper’ Bowl, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and so on.

Other activities:

  • The AARP tax program was on site this spring providing a hybrid program that is COVID-19 compliant.  More than 600 people have had their taxes prepared for free January – April 2021. 
  • The tap dance group is periodically recorded at the Senior Center and posted on social media.
  • People are gardening in the enabling garden behind the Senior Center building so participants can come pick fruit and vegetables.
  • In the “Recall Notification” program, 1,632 product recalls have been sent by email.
  • Birthday announcements continue to be made each month.
  • Some class participants have had ZOOM gatherings for socialization.
  • Staff from FTJ have volunteered to read stories or teach craft classes that are recorded and posted.
  • Flyers are given out when relevant programs are coming up, such as the Farmers’ Market Coupons, caregiver conferences and more.
  • In December 2020, 85 Holiday Gift Bags were put together for all the Senior Center participants. The Gift Bag included a DVD that Kate personally recorded with a special holiday message, entertainment from staff and instructors, 2021 calendars, candy and a gift card.
  • Over 20,000 views on the Point Defiance ~ Ruston Senior Center social media.

Kate says, “While it has been a challenging time, it is imperative for us to continue to provide activities, information and support for our seniors.”

Franke Tobey Jones is extremely fortunate to have such a dynamic, caring, dedicated to seniors team member as Kate Gray.  She continues to make a difference EVERY DAY in the lives of so many seniors!  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts Kate!

Categories: General