Community

Meals on Wheels needs help serving Lane Co. seniors

They care for you when you’re young, share old stories with you, are full of wisdom and deserve to be taken care of. It’s time to give back to our seniors.

Senior and Disability Service personnel can attest that the senior population has been most impacted by the hardships over the last two years. Because of Covid, inflation and the excessive heat in recent months, many have felt isolated, pressed for resources and afraid.

Senior and Disability Services, a division of Lane Council of Governments, provides relief through their Senior Meals Program, which seeks to cater to the needs of seniors in our community.

“Our priority is always making sure that our community is safe and they’re fed … even if they can’t get out of the house to go grocery shopping,” said Kendra Pennington, Older Americans Act program manager and overseer of the Senior Meals Program. 

The program has two methods of providing meals to seniors: through Meals on Wheels, delivering food to a person’s door who is housebound, and providing meals from one of its locations known as Cafe 60. 

Because of the pandemic, Senior Meals Services have turned its Cafe 60s to purely to-go meals, something the program is trying to reverse as soon as possible because it prohibits socialization for the senior community. 

However, the pandemic also affected the amount of helping hands. Prior to Covid, the Senior Meals program in Lane County had 400 volunteers and is down to 200. With efforts to reopen Cafe 60 dining, organizers are going to need some help. 

The last fiscal year, Meals on Wheels served and delivered over 229,000 meals and Cafe 60 had served over 61,000 meals to Lane County. There are 11 locations in Lane County, Springfield being the largest distribution site of all.

Lack of socialization can be detrimental to the health of anyone, but especially to seniors who are often empty-nesters and retired. 

“Covid has compounded the issue. Being able to have community, share stories and share food can be a huge benefit to seniors’ health,” said Melisa Andrion, community outreach coordinator. 

Pennington said that opening Cafe 60s for congregate dining is most important right now. For some seniors, that’s their only social period for the whole week, Pennington said. 

On top of the pandemic, Lane County has faced a heat wave and also is facing cost-of-living inflation. All of these factors have made it harder to find volunteers, and created even more of a need in the community. 

Andrion is working to reach people in a better way by getting out into the community – you may have seen them at the Bohemia Mining Days festival in Cottage Grove. 

The Program is making an effort to engage with the community directly, so people aren’t hindered by the cost of travel to seek services or volunteer, Andrion said. 

She also noted that there is a huge need for assistance in rural communities of Lane County and there are several ways you can help out, such as being a caregiver, companion, medical escort, money manager.

“Even 30 minutes … can make a huge difference in somebody’s life,” Contracts Manager “I’m here because I want to make a positive impact on our level in Lane County. I love getting out to the site and being able to have connections with the coordinators and the people that we serve,” Pennington said.    

“I would appreciate any help that they are willing to provide to us, for our seniors and for our people with disabilities. We have so many needs, and we can use everyone’s help,” Andrion said. Andrion grew up in the area and is passionate about serving the people of her community. “This is my community and I love the people that are here,” she said. “We have so many needs, and we can use everyone’s help.”

Andrews expressed thoughtfulness toward her parents and her generation in the future.

“I want to be sure that when my parents age and when I age that we have the support and services in place for all people … so they’re able to remain in their home or whatever living facilities they would like. That’s why I enjoy this work because I am able to help them along the way in whatever fashion that is,” Andrews said.