While state and local efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 brought many activities to a stop, Great Lakes Community Action Partnership’s Senior Services staff amplified their efforts to ensure that Sandusky County seniors were safe, felt connected, and had support throughout the stay-at-home period.
“Making sure that seniors are fed and have basic necessities is something that doesn’t stop no matter what the conditions are,” GLCAP President/CEO Ruthann House said. “In fact, we’ve had to work even harder to care for seniors who count on us for support.”
As GLCAP senior centers in Clyde, Fremont and Gibsonburg closed to prevent and delay the spread of COVID-19, Senior Services staff had to expand home-delivered meal efforts to accommodate seniors who would normally be eating a daily lunch at a center. Staff reached out to seniors to see if any wished to continue to receive a meal during the stay-at-home period. Seniors were then added to Meals on Wheels drivers’ routes throughout the county. This brought the number of home-delivered meals from 290 to 340 in a period of a few days.
With the assistance of available weatherization staff from GLCAP’s Housing & Energy department, Senior Services also assembled and delivered roughly 4,000 shelf-stable meals to county seniors.
“With rules changing frequently to control the pandemic, we wanted to know that seniors had food available that they could use in case our home-delivered meal service had to change,” GLCAP Senior Services Director Robin Richter said.
Staff from multiple GLCAP departments also assisted Senior Services with assembling 340 wellness boxes for seniors in Sandusky County. The boxes included toiletries, snack packages, puzzles and word searches, and other items. Many of the items were purchased by GLCAP with the use of Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds. Some items were donated by organizations, including hand soap that was donated to GLCAP as part of a statewide donation from Bath & Body Works that was distributed by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) in partnership with the office of Gov. Mike DeWine.
Seniors were also offered the option of picking up “grab and go” meals from the Fremont Senior Center. Offered twice-per-week in March and April, the meals included a hot lunch as well as two additional cold entrée items for later in the week.
In addition to meeting nutrition needs, GLCAP Senior Services staff have also been developing and implementing new ways for seniors to stay connected during the stay-at-home period.
Some of these opportunities included a weekly virtual book club and weekly virtual journaling club, where members could call in and talk via phone in a group setting. More than 50 seniors so far are taking part in the clubs. Likewise, Senior Staff began a Facebook group for members to continue to talk to one another during the stay-at-home period.
“We know that our centers provide seniors a location where they can meet and socialize, so we wanted to continue to ensure that opportunities to connect remained available in spite of our centers’ closure,” Richter said. “We will continue to offer these programs and make changes as needed to care for our county’s seniors.”