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Council on Aging seeks volunteers, adjusts to COVID-19 rules

“We can use even more volunteers,” said Council on Aging Director Debbie Thompson, speaking of the “Adopt a Senior” program in a March 30 phone conversation. More seniors are requesting help getting groceries and medications, and the COA has established a procedure for volunteers to follow when they make deliveries. Thompson said the greatest need for help is at the two apartment complexes in town, Bowers Brook and Foxglove, where residents are trying to stay in their rooms, and more than one volunteer is needed at each site.

The COA van is available for medication pickup, though Thompson said those calls have lessened. It is no longer making runs for groceries, but the van is being used to deliver boxes of food from Loaves & Fishes to Harvard residents—not just seniors—whose families are affected by hunger. Clients can call the food pantry to request food for their family. Thompson said when she went to the grocery store last week, there were no eggs, and she thought about Harvard residents who raise chickens and might want to donate extra eggs.

Since most of the volunteers who deliver Chef Paul’s soups to seniors are themselves seniors and the COA does not want to put any of them at risk, Monday was the last day of delivery. About 20 containers were distributed to people who had requested soup.

In an effort to stay connected, Thompson will publish a spring newsletter next week. She hopes to include a list of grocery stores that make home deliveries. She also is working on a Zoom meeting for the popular Wednesday morning men’s group. Harvard Cable TV is planning to film Thompson’s “Spotlight” program from Hildreth House, and Thompson will ask Fire Chief Rick Sicard, who is heading up the emergency team, to speak as well.

Staffing at the COA is now on a staggered schedule, with each person working from a separate office. Thompson will be in on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays and work from home the other two days of the week. Outreach workers Maria Holland and Charlotte Winchell will alternate weeks rather than days; since they share an office, this will allow the space to be cleaned at the end of each week. Lisa Rosen, administrative assistant and dispatcher, will be at Hildreth House almost every day. Program director Jen Schoenberg will be coming in one or two days a week.

“We’re keeping the staff healthy and practicing social distancing,” said Thompson. “And we’re trying to think outside the box.”

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