by Beverly Church
The Costick Activities Center, normally a beehive of activities for older adults, is quiet. No gatherings for lunch or a card game, no pickle ball, no swim aerobics. The coronavirus pandemic has put an end to all that for now.
Yet, behind the scenes, the City of Farmington Hills staff members and a core group of volunteers continue to take care of the most vulnerable older adults in Farmington and Farmington Hills with food and other services.
Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels, which many seniors depend on for nutrition, is still delivering meals, though on a more limited schedule. Teresa Bryant, Nutrition Coordinator for the City of Farmington Hills, said they’re currently serving 227 clients, up from 177 before the stay-at-home orders.
“Right now, we’re (delivering) an average of about 395” meals a day, said Bryant. And, since they’re only delivering on Tuesdays, Thursdays Fridays (down from five days a week), they sometimes deliver as many as 800 meals in a day to cover days they don’t deliver.
“We’ve always offered the option of three meals a day,” including a hot meal, a cold meal and a breakfast, said Bryant. “On Fridays, we offer weekend meals so they have something on Saturday and Sunday.”
To qualify for Meals on Wheels, people must be over age 60 and a resident of Farmington or Farmington Hills. Typically, those who have transportation and are able to get to a store don’t qualify. But for now, they are relaxing those rules.
“Many have limited support, they don’t have family around,” said Bryant. “During this time, we’re able to provide meals for them.”
A small group of staff and volunteers prepare, pack and deliver the meals. Anna Durham, Senior Division Supervisor, said they are limiting numbers in order to keep everyone safe.
“Normally, we have around 200 volunteers who help with the Meals on Wheels program,” she said. “But because of the circumstances, we have 16 drivers each day who deliver and five volunteers who pack.”
Added Bryant, “We are very grateful for all the people who are calling to volunteer. We can’t use them right now, but we appreciate their offer to help.”
For the Meals on Wheels team, safety comes first.
“We are doing everything we can to keep our drivers safe and participants safe,” said Bryant. “Everyone is wearing gloves and everyone is more frequently washing their hands. The drivers are all equipped with gloves, masks and hand sanitizer. And they are not having physical contact with participants. They are knocking on the door and stepping away. The participant needs to come and signal that they’re OK and take the meal.”
Bryant praised the volunteers who deliver meals.
“Our volunteers are just wonderful and go above and beyond,” she said. “They’re not just delivering a meal, but they’re also bringing flowers, bringing magazines, taking out their garbage, getting their mail and kindnesses we don’t even know about. I know these are troubling times, but there is a lot to feel good about the people we have in this community.”
For the Easter holiday, the staff worked with a group of local children to make more than 200 greeting cards that were delivered with the meals.
In addition to Meals on Wheels, Marsha Koet, Senior Adult Supervisor, said the city also makes outreach calls to seniors to make sure they’re okay.
“We call our Meals on Wheels clients, and we’re calling those who used to come (to the Costick Center) two or three days a week,” said Koet.
She said they’re also calling “particularly frail” people who typically rely on the city’s Transportation Program to take them to and from doctor and physical therapy appointments. However, since most of those appointments have been cancelled due to the virus, city staff and volunteers call to check in on them. The city continues to transport dialysis patients, Koet said.
The city’s Outreach Services Coordinator, Teresa Jergovich, connects seniors with other services they need, such as getting medicine or food delivered. She also works with local groups, such as CARES of Farmington Hills (a local organization that provides food, clothing and other services) and churches, and handles referrals from the fire and police departments to help seniors in need.
How you can help
While the Meals on Wheels program is limiting volunteers, they welcome donations. Make checks payable to the City of Farmington Hills with “Meals on Wheels” in the memo section. Mail them to: Costick Activities Center, 28600 W. 11 Mile, Farmington Hills, MI 48336.
If you or someone you know would like to sign up for Meals on Wheels, call 248-473-1825. For questions or information about other services for older adults, call the Center for Active Adults’ main number at 248-473-1830.