The military retirement club in Viera, Fla. now prepares and boxes up between 170 and 200 takeout meals daily. A new “At Ease Post Exchange (PX)” grocery menu offers more than 30 popular items, so residents can avoid shopping in stores and stay sheltered at home.
In response to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order, the Indian River Colony Club (IRCC) in Viera, Fla., a 55+ neighborhood of predominantly retired military personnel, created and then supported two programs that both benefitted the senior residents and protected staff jobs, Florida Today reported. The busy “At Ease Club” restaurant quickly retooled its processes for takeout only.
Using the lunch menu as a foundation and adding an entree “special,” the club now prepares and boxes up between 170 and 200 takeout meals daily, Florida Today reported. That number swelled on Easter, when 385 special holiday meals were prepared to order, boxed and bagged and staged for car and golf cart pickup.
A second and particularly innovative program for the golf course community was devised by Club Manager Thomas Shonkwiler, CCM, CAM, whose new “At Ease Post Exchange (PX)” grocery menu allows residents to avoid grocery-store shopping and stay sheltered at home, Florida Today reported. Neighborhood members simply place their orders for more than 30 popular grocery items that include chicken breasts, steak, lunch meats, cheese, eggs, soft drinks, snacks and even beer and wine.
Also available are coveted paper products that have proven scarce during the pandemic, such as toilet tissue, Florida Today reported. The orders are filled and bagged by restaurant employees and organized for next day pickup in a car and golf cart line.
Together, the lunch and dinner takeout program and the Post Exchange grocery program have helped minimize exposure to the COVID-19 virus for residents, while safeguarding the jobs of the club staff, Florida Today reported. Indian River Colony Club has 94 total employees, including 21 kitchen, wait and bar staff.
A disproportionate number of restaurant and hospitality staff workers are among the hundreds of thousands of unemployment claims filed in Florida since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, Florida Today reported. But none from Indian River Colony Club.
Indian River Colony Club resident Sally Grissom is grateful for the ways in which the community food service workers are keeping the neighborhood safe, Florida Today reported.
“The club is offering a pretty extensive list of groceries for residents to purchase so that we can avoid the grocery stores,” Grissom said. “They had over 100 grocery orders in the first two days. Between the At Ease Club Post Exchange grocery orders and all of the daily lunch and dinner takeout meals, we have kept all of our staff on the payroll. They are doing so much to help us and the residents here couldn’t be happier.”
Shonkwiler said Indian River Colony Club acted fast when news of the pandemic broke.
“When the club first heard about the coronavirus outbreak, we took quick action to order sanitizer, disinfectant spray, bleach and toilet paper. We took these first steps to be prepared when the news said have enough supplies for two weeks,” he said. “A week later, full-blown pandemic ensued, but thankfully we had a decent supply of goods to manage through the coming weeks.”
The club then set up protocols to check each employee’s temperature before they checked in to work.
“We communicated that no employee is to come to work if they have a cough or sniffles,” Shonkwiler said. “They must bring a doctor’s note to be able to return to work.
“We sourced masks wherever we could—either online or through donations—to cover the faces of employees,” he added. “Some members hand-made masks and provided them to the team and membership alike.”
Another challenge was setting up a daily sanitizing regimen for both clubhouses. Twice each day—in the morning and in the evening—staff sanitized the air in every room with a disinfectant spray and wiped down every door handle and light switch with a sanitizing cloth. The team closed out the day by wiping down all food contact surfaces with a specifically measured bleach solution.
The club also removed a portion of the chairs from the tennis, pool deck and croquet pavilion to maintain social-distancing standards.
“One of our biggest obstacles was to split up the staff into two teams both in the kitchen and in the front of the house,” Shonkwiler said. “Thoroughly thinking this through, we did this to maintain an option to be able to extend service to the membership should one team have to go into quarantine.
“Our plan is seven days of service to the membership with two teams until one team becomes quarantined,” he continued. “At that point, we would close the club for 24 hours to air it out. The next 24 hours, we then have on call a professional sanitizing company to clean and sanitize the club building from top to bottom. Our goal is within 72 hours of the initial closure to be able to reopen.”
Shonkwiler said members have been “very receptive to this new normal.”
“The ability to get a meal to go or groceries to only travel within the community is fantastic,” he said. “We receive praise for the team in their efforts in coming to the club in this time of high anxiety, to assist the members each day. Our members are just happy to be able to occasionally get out of the house for fresh air. They also get the opportunity to interact with their favorite smiling-faced employees [albeit behind a mask].”
Shonkwiler said the camaraderie at Indian River Colony Club makes it special.
“The members care a great deal for their employees here at IRCC,” he said. “As long as there is a need for meals, it is our pleasure to continue to serve our community.”