Care for the Elderly Is the Driving Force Behind Kosciusko Community Senior Services
Writer / Amy Lant-Wenger
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell
In these present times, perhaps more so than ever before, people are compelled to look out for one another.
Yet even in the best of circumstances, when intentions are honorable and compassion is flowing, the voices of those most in need can seem faint and fleeting.
However, the folks who have formed a veritable alliance of benevolence at Kosciusko Community Senior Services (KCSS) are deeply committed to becoming a faithful presence in the lives of senior citizens, helping to form a devoted network of community and care.
David Neff currently serves as the executive director for the Warsaw-based facility. He has only the highest regards and fondest accolades for the staff and volunteers who are invested in the senior residents of the region. The past two years of trying to maintain a sense of normalcy during a global pandemic have presented new and sometimes confounding challenges. But Neff reflects proudly on the fact that although some elements of assistance had to be revamped, the services continued to flow on and reach those who were most profoundly affected.
The KCSS team offers three main points of focus for their clients, one of which is the delivery of meals to area homes. A team of volunteers takes on various routes, bringing hot and cold meal items during weekdays and frozen food selections on the weekends. Neff says they typically distribute approximately 80 meals per day. Those who bring the meals to seniors are not only well-versed on the needs of the residents they visit, but they also make it a priority to visit with the folks for a while, which is helpful in preventing precarious health hazards and other concerns that could arise.
“The beauty of this program is developing that camaraderie and also the wellness check,” Neff says. “Our volunteers will take some time to chat with them, and once in a while we’re able to assist a senior in distress.”
Neff notes that even during the height of COVID-19, the organization never once missed a meal. The volunteers simply adapted by using a stop-and-drop method, waiting and watching for the individuals to collect their food, and making sure they were well and safe.
Another critical amenity that the KCSS facility provides is transportation – a tremendous asset for those who are no longer able to drive. With three buses and three vehicles outfitted for those with medical equipment such as wheelchairs, drivers are available to pick residents up directly at their doorsteps and chauffeur them to appointments that emphasize medical, nutritional and recreational needs. The goodwill of the drivers extends beyond simply maneuvering the steering wheel, as they will go the distance to carry groceries, open doors, and help to ensure safe movement for patients who have mobility issues.
Neff says that safety protocols have been, and remain, enforced with regard to masking and social distancing. He notes that the center recently received grant funds from the Kosciusko County Community Foundation, which were used to help install plastic barrier screens between the front and rear seats. Presently, the policies for face coverings have been rendered optional, and the site follows the same protocols as those set forth by the Warsaw Parks and Recreation Department.
The one feature of KCSS that was most affected throughout the past two years was the popular activity center. Neff still remembers the exact date when he learned that the much-loved center would be forced to close as COVID-19 cases surged across the state. It was March 12, 2020, Neff recalls, when Teresa Reed paid a visit from the Health Department, bringing the sad news that the activity center would have to close immediately.
Neff is very grateful to Reed for providing much-needed guidance and updates, even coming to talk with the clients and staff, sharing a willingness to inform and answer questions in light of rapidly changing data.
“Whenever possible, she stayed there right on-site,” Neff says. “She was crucial and instrumental on deciding when and how to reopen. I confidently told our board of directors that I had the utmost faith in her.”
The staff of KCSS was overjoyed to be able to reopen the activity center to clients, welcoming them all with open arms as the nation slowly emerged from a dark spell. “It gives them a chance to mingle again and to spend time with their peers,” Neff says. Many guests come by to play cards, board games or bingo, or to simply engage in conversation. “Isolation definitely contributes to feelings of depression and despair,” Neff says, noting that their visitors are optimistic and happy to be back in the social circles.
Lunches are also served in the activity center once per day, with Thursday being the most popular day. Neff says that particular day is special, as a number of local businesses pitch in through their sponsorships to provide special meals, which gives the diners a chance to sample local cuisine.
Kosciusko Community Senior Services is located at 800 North Park Avenue in Warsaw. They can be reached by calling 574-267-2012, or by visiting their website at kosciuskoseniorservices.org.