Community of caring: Meals on Wheels program ramps up support for Truckee-Tahoe seniors | SierraSun.com
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Community of caring: Meals on Wheels program ramps up support for Truckee-Tahoe seniors

Kayla Anderson
Special to the Sierra Sun

HOW TO HELP

To contribute money or sign up for Sierra Senior Services, visit https://www.sierraseniors.org. To contribute to the Special Touch program, feel free to drop your cards and encouraging notes off in the lobby of the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments at 10050 Estates Drive or send them to P.O. Box 4152, Truckee, CA 96160.

As the Tahoe community continues to self-isolate, one key demographic — elderly residents — may be feeling more alone than ever, which is why the Sierra Senior Services “Meals on Wheels” program might be needed now more than ever.

Sierra Senior Services gets the majority of its funding from the California Department of Aging and uses that to feed elderly people within North Lake Tahoe and Truckee through a delivery service or through its congregated meals.

In the past, seniors have qualified for the Meals on Wheels program by proving that at least two areas of their daily living impact their ability to get food on their own (like if a person struggled to stand up or go shopping by themselves); most seniors in the Tahoe community who received Meals on Wheels were medical referrals.

However, everything has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic hit and now Meals on Wheels, which incorporated in 2001, has ramped up its service, now delivering food to anyone in North Tahoe who meets the qualifying age of 60.

“The seniors are putting these pictures up on their refrigerators like they’re from their own grandchildren … It really means a lot to them.”— Sharon RomackSierra Senior Services Executive Director

“When this came down, they allowed us to loosen the restrictions to be able to provide meals to those ages 60 and over,” says Sierra Senior Services Executive Director Sharon Romack. “In North Lake Tahoe many seniors are quite active and don’t meet medical requirements but now the restrictions are loosened and even those (active) seniors are staying at home.”

SPIKE IN SERVICE

Data shows that in the week of Feb. 24-28, Sierra Senior Services served 560 meals and there was a significant increase in the week of April 13-17 when the number jumped up to 815 meals served.

“Not a lot of people knew about us before,” Romack said, suggesting the coronavirus has brought more awareness to the Sierra Senior Services and what it provides for Tahoe’s elderly community.

To administer its Meals on Wheels program, Sierra Senior Services uses the money received from the state to purchase ingredients from local food distributors and chef David Lutz (who used to own Evergreen Restaurant in Tahoe City) preparing the meals from its commercial kitchen.

“Our food distributors have continued to process our orders and we’re lucky that we haven’t experienced a break in that yet,” Romack says. While the coronavirus has caused Sierra Senior Services to temporarily eliminate its congregated meal service, Meals on Wheels is humming along, providing seniors with lunch every weekday and easy-to-heat-up frozen foods if seniors need them for the weekend. If for some reason their needs aren’t met by Sierra Senior Services, Romack can connect them with the Sierra Community House for further assistance.

“No one goes hungry on our program,” she says.

A ‘SPECIAL TOUCH’

However, recognizing that seniors in the Tahoe community are more isolated now for fear of going shopping or seeing their loved ones to risk catching the coronavirus, Sierra Senior Services has been adding a “Special Touch” to seniors’ meal deliveries.

“We know a lot of them are very isolated right now, so we asked the community to write little notes to seniors letting them know that the community is thinking of them,” Romack says. A round of about 150 cards and notes went out with meal deliveries about three weeks ago and definitely have been boosting local seniors’ spirits.

“People will include pictures, send cards, and the response has been really positive. It truly adds that special touch to someone’s day,” Romack says. The nurses at Tahoe Forest Hospital have put together a bunch of notes for the seniors and kids who are out of school right now are contributing too and seniors are even sending handwritten thank you notes in return.

“The seniors are putting these pictures up on their refrigerators like they’re from their own grandchildren,” Romack says. “It really means a lot to them. Our seniors love being recognized and enjoy the notes that let them know they are remembered.”

Another 150 notes went out with the Wednesday delivery service as well as other types of “Special Touches” to keep people staying positive.

“One week we got a flower donation from a Reno flower distribution center, so everyone got a flower with their meal. Another week we put together snack bags with some healthy and different foods like baked chips or cereal, things that they like or may be missing that’s not normally included with our staple items.

“We’re trying to keep our seniors positive and still feed their souls, too, not just their tummies,” Romack says.

She adds that it’s really made a difference seeing Tahoe come together to donate their time, money, and resources to aid Tahoe’s seniors.

“We have very generous community members. Our costs have increased due to having to buy food and prepare it and we’re serving more people now, so it’s really the generosity of our community that has allowed us to keep nutritious food in stock and our seniors well fed. We really do live in a wonderful community,” Romack says.

To contribute money or sign up for Sierra Senior Services, visit https://www.sierraseniors.org. To contribute to the Special Touch program, feel free to drop your cards and encouraging notes off in the lobby of the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments at 10050 Estates Drive or send them to P.O. Box 4152, Truckee, CA 96160.

Kayla Anderson is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in South Lake Tahoe. Contact her at kaylaanderson1080@gmail.com.


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