Spring Forward for Seniors: Seniors Center Foundation food distribution on its way

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 24, 2020 at 11:58 PM

With seniors everywhere holed up at home to ride out the risk of COVID-19 in isolation, the Johnson City Seniors Center Foundation’s largest charitable outreach of the year is rolling out right on time.

And with it, 250 low-income seniors are in for a much-needed grocery delivery.

Spring Forward for Seniors, the foundation’s annual distribution of more than $80 worth of nonperishable food items for 250 pre-registered, low-income seniors will begin rolling out Monday.

Deliveries to the seniors’ doorsteps will continue through April 3. Seniors who were signed up through the center’s Area Agency on Aging and Disability in-home coordinator will be contacted by telephone before the delivery to make sure they are home and watching for its arrival.

“Everybody will get a call, starting this week, to let them know when to expect us,” said Debbie Fogle, JCSC senior services manager. “We try not to deliver if they are not going to be home and to go back when they are home.”

The fact that the food is going out in the midst of a rush on grocery stores that has increased the challenges for seniors to keep themselves out of crowds happened quite by accident.

According to Fogle, the annual food distribution typically happens at Christmas. But because so many organizations distribute food during the holidays, the foundation board last year decided to move the project forward to spring and to dub it “Spring Forward for Seniors” with no hint of the unprecedented risk seniors would be facing as that new season arrived.

In addition to increasing the need for the food delivery, Fogle said the virus also impacted several aspects of how the distribution is being conducted this year and the products it will be able to deliver.

The foundation board members and Seniors Center volunteers enjoy taking part in the project as much or more than seniors who receive the food, Fogle said. But because many of them are also seniors, the food packing and deliveries this year will be conducted by only the Seniors Center staff.

“It’s a social interaction they look forward to and our foundation board looks forward to too. You definitely get a blessing in distributing more than receiving,” she said.

The project also provides a meaningful opportunity for volunteers to interact with food recipients, including many who struggle with isolation even in the best of times. But again, because of the virus and need to limit contact with others, this year delivery will be differed. Two tote bags of food will be dropped off on each of the seniors’ doorsteps and the seniors alerted by phone to open their doors and carry it inside.

And because of shortages created by panic buying, several items traditionally included in the distribution — particularly toilet paper and other helpful household items that cannot be purchased with supplemental nutrition benefits — will not be there this year.

Although the distribution will be smaller in content and will not include the happy greetings with which it is traditionally delivered,  Fogel said “We just hope they enjoy it.”

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