“A rising tide lifts all ships.” – Operation Round Up Provides Home-Delivered Meals for Community Seniors
During the long months of quarantine, Kosciusko County’s seniors were greatly impacted, especially those who lived alone and were more vulnerable to health concerns. KREMC’s Operation Round Up grant is designed to serve those in the community who need it the most. When we spoke with Executive Director David Neff from Senior Services, it was clear that the nonprofit’s Operation Round Up grant was put to good use. In this Q&A, Neff explains how the grant impacted local seniors and gave them something to look forward to during isolation.
KREMC Interviewer: How did KREMC’s Operation Round Up grant help Senior Services provide care for the community of Kosciusko County?
David Neff: The KREMC Operation Round Up grant is directly for home-delivered meals, but a rising tide lifts all ships. The other two programs are transportation for seniors who don’t drive and the activity center. Operation Round Up helps those other programs indirectly because we don’t have to take as much out of our general fund to pay for the home-delivered meals.
We’ve been getting the KREMC grant for at least four or five years now, maybe more. It is directly assisting seniors to remain in their home for as long as possible. I’m very proud of what we’ve done for the seniors, and KREMC’s grants have helped. Our priority is to help those who are the neediest, and we don’t turn anyone down.
KREMC Interviewer: What are the criteria for having meals delivered?
DN: We screen the seniors who are homebound and can no longer prepare meals. Some of them go off and on, like if they’ve broken a hip and are in rehab, and some of them have been in the program for years. Right now, we have around 80 meals that go out every day all over the county. We have routes in Milford, Syracuse, North Webster, and the Warsaw area. We hit most of Kosciusko County.
The criteria to receive home-delivered meals is 60 and over, and home-bound. The meals for Warsaw and North Webster are prepared at Lutheran Hospital, and the meals for the other routes are prepared at Harvest Coffee in Milford. These meals are physician-approved, nutritionally sound, and we make sure the hot meals are still hot when they get to the seniors. We’re audited to make sure the meals are compliant. We also have frozen meals for the weekends if seniors need them.
KREMC Interviewer: How do the volunteers impact the seniors when they deliver the meals?
DN: An important aspect of this is the volunteers seeing the seniors and doing wellness checks. We train our volunteers and do background checks. In the seven-plus years that I’ve been director, I can think of at least eight or nine times that a life has been saved by someone seeing a senior that’s distressed. We have a process for the volunteer to call us, and we call the emergency contact. Obviously, if the senior is down, it’s an immediate 911 call.
The home-delivered meals program took on even more importance during COVID. Seniors are the most vulnerable population to COVID. They were asked to shelter in place, so how else were they going to get a meal if we didn’t home-deliver them? We worked with the Kosciusko County Health Department to develop a plan to deliver the vital home-delivered meals in a way that could be safe for our volunteers and seniors.
We developed what we called “Drop’n’Stop.” Meijer donated thermal bags, so our seniors would keep the bags outside, and our volunteers would go up to the door, put the meals in the bag, knock on the door, and social distance away from the door so they could still do the wellness check. To the best of my knowledge, there were no cases of anyone getting COVID through the volunteers. The seniors were appreciative of that, and we didn’t drop a single meal through COVID.
The seniors also got isolated and lonely. There are some unbelievably sad cases. We encourage our volunteers to talk to the seniors because the isolation is very bad for their health. The volunteer that delivers the meal is often the only person they see all day.
Volunteers are an essential part of our program, and we treat them very well. We want to make sure it’s a positive experience for them. This time of year, we’re always in need of volunteers. The volunteer process is relatively simple. They call us at 574-267-2012, and then we do a background check, though we’ve never turned up anything that’s kept someone from volunteering.
KREMC Interviewer: What other needs does Senior Services help fill?
DN: We are a warming station in the winter, so if someone comes in and doesn’t have anywhere to go, we’ll set them up and transport them to Fellowship Missions when the night comes. Working and advocating for seniors is what I do. We’re unique because we’re the only nonprofit doing this. Seniors don’t always know how to ask for help.
One board member’s grandmother delivered meals for years, and when she passed away, the board member asked me to speak at the funeral because delivering meals was so important to the grandmother. I tallied up the meals they delivered over the years, and it was over 20,000 meals. This person was so motivated to continue her grandmother’s passion.
The KREMC grant helps us in all ways – because they’re helping us take care of the cost of the food, we have more dollars to put gas in the vehicles.
KREMC Interviewer: How has the community responded to the home-delivered meals program?
DN: We collaborate with different organizations, like Combined Community Services and Fellowship Missions, to make sure we’re not repeating anyone’s service. The community has been outstanding. They’ve always supported our home-delivered meals. We have some super volunteers, and I’m proud of this community.
To learn more or sign up to be a volunteer, call Senior Services at 574-267-2012 or fill out the form online.