Island Senior Resources, Meals on Wheels continue to deliver
— Created August 12, 2020 by Kacie Jo Voeller
By Kacie Jo Voeller
Island Senior Resources (ISR) has been serving seniors, adults with disabilities, their families, and caregivers in Island County since 1972. In the midst of COVID-19, the program has seen increased demands for its services, from Meals on Wheels to Aging and Disability Resources. The organization continues to meet rising needs and has also recently reopened its thrift store, Senior Thrift.
Cheryn Weiser, the executive director of ISR, said the Meals on Wheels program has seen a 107 percent increase in the number of meals delivered from March through July. With increased demand for meals, which consist of homemade goods, the group needs to purchase an additional industrial freezer to store food, Weiser said.
“The need for the freezer is because of the increase in Meals on Wheels,” she said. “(For) Meals on Wheels, we individually package each meal and we try to have some frozen meals in advance.”
Debbie Metz, the nutrition program director for ISR, said an extra freezer would allow for Meals on Wheels to be better prepared to meet demands moving forward. She said although dining room meals at ISR centers were discontinued for safety reasons, the program continues to offer frozen pick-up/take-out meals and provides meal deliveries.
“We need the extra room for our frozen meals and we have to be prepared as much as possible for an uncertain future,” she said. “We need to make sure we have plenty of food and frozen meals on hand in case we would not be able to deliver the meals in our regular processes.”
Weiser said a number of community groups have contributed to the efforts to purchase a new freezer.
“Goosefoot contributed, the Coupeville Lions Club contributed, (and) we have a couple of other requests out for additional support, but we are, at this moment, about $10,000 short,” she said.
Metz said community members who are interested in supporting ISR can go online to make a donation. Metz said the program has adapted to continue service throughout the pandemic and has adopted a number of safety measures to keep clients, volunteers and employees safe.
“We are so fortunate to continue to provide meal deliveries through the Meals on Wheels Program,” she said. “We are an essential service, providing food and connection to those who are so very isolated, especially during these unprecedented times.”
Weiser said ISR recently reopened Senior Thrift in Freeland, which will be open Thursday through Sunday from 12-4 p.m. Proceeds from the thrift store support ISR, and she said the store closure led to the loss of an estimated $159,000 between March and June.
“We are glad to have it back, but it is not going to be at the regular amount of time that we would assume in a summer,” she said. “Summers are usually a busy time, so it is a restricted amount of time, but anything helps. We are delighted to be back as much as we are.”
Weiser said the store will accept donations Sunday from 9-11 a.m. She said all donations go through a quarantine process and there is also a hand-sanitizing and mask station available.
“We have been actually overwhelmed with donations,” she said. “The whole community has helped.”
Metz said the community has rallied behind ISR in the past months, with over 100 new volunteers coming to the organization since the beginning of COVID-19, and many residents making calls to the organization to express thanks or well wishes.
“Community is defined as the connection of people and we are bound together,” she said. “We need each other and need to support and care for each other. By supporting our vulnerable, isolated seniors through our services, like delivering meals and friendly smiles, we are strengthening our ties with one another and it feels good! I am amazed by the community support I have seen since COVID-19’s inception.”
Weiser said the organization has continued to adapt and has transitioned many services to online or over the phone. Weiser said virtual support groups have been established, and Aging and Disability Resources have seen a rise in phone calls.
“Our Aging and Disability Resources are trained professionals who know a lot about people and their needs and resources,” she said. “We used to have an average length of calls from 10-15 minutes. It is 20-30 minutes now, which just tells you how many people are looking just to talk with somebody, to tell them that they are anxious, what their fears are, get some information and make contact with another human being. And so that is what we are trying to be, is that resource. I think our staff and volunteers are doing an extraordinary job to try to keep up with the demand.”
Metz said volunteers and staff have remained dedicated to adaptation and meeting escalated needs on the island.
“Our fantastic cooking staff and volunteers stepped into the changed situation wholeheartedly,” she said. “We are committed to serving our most vulnerable population and our Meals on Wheels participants, making sure they continue to receive nutritious meals, meaningful connection, and a safety net. Our participants count on us, especially as they face increased isolation and distancing.”
For more information on ISR, visit senior-resources.org. Those seeking resources can contact the organization by calling 360-321-1600 or 360-678-3373 (North Whidbey phone number).