Seminole Rec connects with residents digitally during social distancing

Though the Seminole Recreation Center is closed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, its staff is working hard to remain connected with city residents.

SEMINOLE — Though the Seminole Recreation Center is closed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, its staff is working hard to remain connected with city residents.

This means “going digital with a lot of our content,” said Becky Gunter, recreation director.

They started by “filming fitness classes that people can do at home,” she said, and have since moved on to other digital ways to reach their audience. “Right now, we’re brainstorming ideas for video activities you can do with your kids at home. Arts, crafts, science projects, and different ways to stay active with your kids, as well.”

Recreation staff is also exploring video conference platforms so it can continue offering group fitness classes for those who have a monthly Get Fit Pass allowing them entry to any group class they’d like to attend. Platforms being considered include Google Classroom and Zoom, Gunter said.

She added, “This is definitely new territory for us. One thing we’ve found is people want to stay connected with us, and we’re excited about that.”

She hopes to launch the online group classes in April, but because it’s unknown how long Pinellas County residents will be encouraged to stay home during the pandemic, staff is “playing it week by week.”

Gunter said, “Not knowing an exact timeline is out biggest struggle, but we’re pushing (programming) out to the public as we figure it out. We want to keep out community active and healthy.”

The easiest way to access this programming is through Seminole Recreation’s Facebook page,

Several special events have been either canceled or rescheduled, she added.

The Pow Wow Festival & Parade, originally scheduled for March 13-15, was postponed for later this year.

The Daddy Daughter Dance, set for April 25, has been pushed back as well, Gunter said. The new date is Saturday, May 9.

“Hopefully, fingers crossed,” she said.

Art in the Park, which was supposed to take place April 18, has been moved to Saturday, May 30, she added, and the Murder Mystery, scheduled April 17 as part of Seminole’s yearlong series of 50th anniversary events, will take place Friday, May 29.

Meanwhile, the March 28 Fuller NFL Skills Camp, the April 18 Teen Lock-in and the March 31 Senior Luncheon set for March 31 have been canceled. In fact, all senior programming in April, including trips, have been canceled, Gunter said.

“We had to look at the April programs and realize what we could not do,” she said.

Rec center staff are reaching out to Seminole seniors to check on them during this period of social distancing, though, she said. This is something staff also does during hurricanes and other emergency situations.

“With our senior age group, our regulars, we’re trying to reach out to them and make sure they’re doing OK,” Gunter said. “We have our staff making wellness calls. We’re calling them social calls, just to make sure things are OK. Telling them we know we’re closed, but we’re thinking about you. … We’re really trying to make that personal touch, especially in a time like this when we all have to isolate.”

The rec center’s summer camp is also “in limbo” as staff awaits news about when Pinellas County Schools will reopen and whether the school year will run longer than planned.

Staff is also preparing for the moment the rec center can open, Gunter said. In addition to producing video content, they’re “preparing programs so they’re ready to roll out when we get the all clear,” she said. “That’s the hardest part. We get asked these questions about when. The virus has its own timeline. We just don’t know. … It’s tough, but we’ll be ready when we reopen.”