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By SARA ARTHURS
Like everyone else, staff and volunteers at 50 North are adjusting to a new normal.
The usual volunteers for things like mobile meal delivery are themselves older, and therefore can’t be doing the task right now.
“We really miss seeing them at the center,” 50 North Director Carolyn Copus said.
But, while the senior center remains closed, many of these activities continue. 50 North found volunteers through the United Way of Hancock County and St. Michael’s church. Copus said the agency has all the volunteers it needs for now, but may be looking for more. If you’re interested, sign up at 50north.org.
Cracker Barrel and Firehouse Subs, 50 North’s partners, are both providing meals to about 30 clients. Copus said delivery drivers leave meals on the porch or on a doorknob. Many seniors want to chat, and the volunteers will do this, but from 6 feet away.
50 North volunteers also deliver groceries, having worked with Great Scot and now Meijer.
Volunteers will continue to help seniors with outdoor chores, such as lawn mowing. Copus said the volunteers cannot go into a person’s home right now to do chores, except in some emergencies like if a person is being discharged from a health care facility.
Copus encouraged families and neighbors to help the seniors in their lives — because the more that seniors can use these types of resources, the more it will ease 50 North’s challenges during the new coronavirus pandemic.
She stressed that “we will help people” and will not turn people away. But 50 North wants to especially concentrate on those seniors who have no one else in their lives who can help.
Staff are making calls to check in on members. Copus said the seniors are telling them about their families and about experiences with rationing during World War II and the Great Depression. Staff are also encouraging them to exercise, whether taking a walk or participating in an online class.
And social workers are helping members create telemedicine doctors’ appointments. As some of 50 North’s staff are themselves “an older workforce, too,” they are learning new technology skills. And they’re teaching seniors how to use Skype and Zoom. The majority of staff are working remotely, and those who are in the office are “cleaning constantly,” Copus said.
Seniors who need help — whether with meals or someone to talk to so they don’t feel isolated — are encouraged to call 50 North at 419-423-8496, Ext. 0, and leave a message. No one answers the phone regularly, but someone does check messages.
50 North is also changing tactics with regard to its planned expansion, and will be doing some of the interior renovations while the facility is closed.