Older adults have been affected in many ways by the COVID 19 pandemic. As the pandemic began to spread into Hendricks County, Hendricks County Senior Services (HCSS) pivoted its services to continue serving older adults in the community.
The most visible change occurred the day the agency announced it would close the Senior Center after lunch on March 13. After the lunch crowd left for the day, the staff locked the doors and put up signs that the facility was closed to the public. All fitness classes, lunches, special events, musical programs, crafting groups and social programs were suspended until further notice.
Yet, even as the Senior Center was closed, the programs of HCSS continued and, in some cases grew. The agency’s transportation program and in-home services continued without interruption. New cleaning and scheduling protocols were put into place to keep people safe, but the services did not waiver. These essential services ensured that people received medical care, such as dialysis, and had a ride to get to work. Vulnerable, homebound seniors continued to receive the support that they need to stay independent.
Without a daily lunch program, the staff looked for new ways to provide nutritional meals and food to its regular guests and community members who would call for assistance.
“Our staff and volunteers pride themselves in the relationships that they form with seniors. We had to find a way to stay safe while meeting these very personal needs,” says Executive Director Marina Keers. “This pandemic has proven that adaptation and flexibility are required to successfully serve others when social distancing is the new normal.”
Prior to the COVID 19 outbreak, HCSS operated its senior-friendly food pantry, for ages 60-plus, much like many others. When a senior came to the pantry, they spent time with volunteer Anne Burney to select the food and hygiene items that meet their needs. That time is also used to get to know the senior and assess if there are other needs they may have or community resources that might be of benefit to them. The pantry would need to change in order to continue meeting the growing needs.
HCSS has always delivered food pantry items to seniors who were homebound and it was ready to expand this service to meet community needs. Volunteers had been deployed to deliver frozen meals from CICOA Aging & In Home Solutions to participants in its lunch program. Within days, the food pantry was transformed into a drive-through pantry.
“We realized we needed to provide a substantial increase in the amount of food we were giving out to help our seniors avoid the grocery stores and visiting other pantries,” Keers says.
HCSS also saw a significant increase in the number of seniors being served. The pantry items were delivered directly into a senior’s vehicle to avoid contact between the volunteer and the senior. Many seniors shed tears as they expressed their appreciation for the food and personal care items.
The demand for assistance with food has grown. HCSS, like many pantries, has continued to request donations of food and financial support in order to meet the demand. Food, transportation and assistance in the home are critical services to help seniors remain safe and independent, in the home of their choice.
HCSS is a 501(c)(3). Tax-deductible donations can be made by credit card at their website at hcseniors.org or can be mailed to 1201 Sycamore Lane P.O.Box 448 Danville, Indiana 46112. You can call 317-745-4303 to make a food pantry appointment and for services and resources.