Upshur County Senior Center seeking food to fill care packages, volunteers

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County residents are being asked to assist some of the most vulnerable residents of the area – its senior citizens.

There are many ways to help those in need, and Upshur County Senior Center Director Sarah Campbell said one way the center is assisting is through care packages which will be distributed to area seniors.

The drive’s purpose is to make sure seniors are well cared for, so the center is seeking donations of shelf-stable, nonperishable items and hygiene items, or monetary donations to help purchase these items for community seniors.

Campbell said specifically, donations they are looking for include canned vegetables and fruits, ravioli, tuna, canned chicken, cereal, granola bars, dried fruits, nuts, trail mix, shampoo, conditioner, soap and deodorant. The Senior Center is providing emergency shelf-stable and frozen meals, she said.

“I have already sent emergency frozen meals to our clients, but we know the shelf-stable products will last them a lot longer,” Campbell said. “These products will be more versatile to our clients, depending on their situation.”

She said because of supply issues with different vendors, the Upshur County Senior Center is looking for items to package up to distribute to seniors – including some items that seniors may have trouble getting ahold of during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Items we are hoping folks will donate include canned vegetables, canned soups, ravioli, individual fruit cups and individual pudding cups,” Campbell said. “These items are wonderful. Trail mix packages are another great option – anything that can be kept in a pantry or cupboard that won’t go bad quickly.”

Campbell said they are looking to get the first care packages put together and out to their clients by the end of next week – April 17.

“The big thing is, we haven’t received a lot of donations yet,” Campbell said. “If we could impress upon folks to make those donations of items or money this week, that would be wonderful.”

She said the Upshur County Senior Center hopes to send out these emergency care packages every two to three weeks until this is over.

Another group of items Campbell said they are looking to gather and distribute to the local seniors is hygiene products including toothpaste, lotion and deodorant.

Campbell said once the boxes are packed, they will be distributed to seniors who are currently picking up meals at the Upshur County Senior Center and those seniors receiving Meals on Wheels.

Folks wanting to drop off donations to help with this drive can leave the items on the front porch of the Upshur County Senior Center, located at 28 N. Kanawha St. in Buckhannon.

“Once we receive those items, we will bring them in and sanitize them before they are packed into packages for people,” she said. “Folks who are wanting to help out by making monetary donations are encouraged to do so – we will then go out and purchase what we are lacking to fill the care packages.”

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the stay at home order, Campbell said the number of seniors
receiving Meals on Wheels has risen.

“There have been a lot of people who have been added to our Meals on Wheels program, and we are looking to add more people,” she said. “We are doing our normal two routes and are looking to split one of those routes and are training some new volunteers.”

With that, she said people can help make sure seniors are being taken care of by volunteering their time at the Senior Center.

“We are looking for volunteers who are willing to come in and be trained,” she said. “We are looking for folks who could help deliver meals. We are hoping to add some volunteers into our Meals on Wheels program.”

Another action Campbell reminds residents to take is to check in on chronically ill people who can’t leave their homes and seniors.

“The biggest thing you can do is if you have their phone number, call them,” she said. “People are always underrating the effect on elderly folks who are isolated. Being isolated is hard, no matter your age, but especially if you are a senior. For mental health, the best thing you can do is pick up the phone and check on them.”

“See if they are okay; see if they need groceries and if you are going to the grocery store anyway, ask them if you can pick up the items on their grocery list and leave for them on their porch,” Campbell said.

One of her favorite stories during the stay-at-home order is that someone checked on a senior neighbor and brought them a letter along with three pieces of paper – one green, one yellow and one red.

“The letter asked the senior to put green paper in their window to indicate they are ‘doing great,’ while the yellow would mean the senior ‘needs someone to talk to.’ The red would indicate the senior needs help and that 911 should be called.”

Campbell said she thought that idea is great, and if someone would donate red, yellow and green paper, they would add those into the emergency care packages going out to senior residents along with a letter explaining how to use the colored paper to let others know of their needs.

“I really encourage people to check on seniors, the elderly and shut-ins by making phone calls to them,” she said. “Ask them if they need something to read and share books and magazines but be sure to wipe them down with wipes or disinfectant. If you have some extra hand sanitizer, see if the seniors need some as well and share that.”

Campbell said most seniors are probably limiting their trips into town, which is necessary.

“We want to encourage them to do that, but that means they have less access to things,” she said. “If we can share what we have, that is wonderful.”

The Upshur County Senior Center is still answering their phone and anyone with questions can call 304-472-0528.

“We are still answering our phone – we will be observing Good Friday on April 10, but we will continue to check our messages,” she said. “We will get back to folks if they leave a message.”

Another thing Campbell said she wanted to reiterate is to remind folks to practice social distancing.

“We know that the news we are hearing this week is good and we want to celebrate that, but the best thing to do is to still remain practicing that six-feet-away distance and staying away from people physically as much as possible,” Campbell said. “That will continue to help us slow the spread of COVID-19.”

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