Vickie has been a resident of the St. James Town Community for 50 years. She runs and oversees the Bleecker/Wellesley Activity Network, a non-profit organization which primarily serves vulnerable and isolated seniors in the community. Laura has been a resident of St. James Town for 18 years and has been volunteering at the Bleecker/Wellesley Network for 3 years.
The Network operates a lunch program for seniors which Vickie has been running for 31 years. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, the lunch program remains active and delivers freshly cooked meals to seniors in their apartments. The lunch program started as an effort by Vickie and her friends to provide isolated seniors with food and social interaction. In the beginning, Vickie funded the program out of her own pocket but eventually got external funding which allowed the program to serve more seniors and run more frequently. Before the pandemic and subsequent quarantine occurred, Vickie and her volunteers would help escort seniors from their apartment to a breakfast room in the basement of 200 Wellesley where the lunch program would take place. Vickie describes the program as beneficial for seniors as it allowed them to interact and socialize with one another.
Laura got involved as a volunteer by asking Vickie if she needed any help with the lunch program. She has since been volunteering at the Bleecker/Wellesley Network for 3 years. During the pandemic, the lunch program has had to adapt to the changing circumstances and has transitioned into a food delivery program. The Network, through its partners and volunteers, prepares and packages home-cooked meals and delivers them to the senior residents in their apartments. Laura states that the volunteers practice strict safety measures to avoid the risk of infection during this time. These measures include wearing masks, using sanitizer frequently, and keeping a safe distance from other volunteers and seniors when delivering food. She says that the seniors have been responding very well to the program. They are enjoying the food they receive and are appreciative of the volunteers and the socializing the program provides them.
Vickie believes that this program is necessary and vital for seniors in the community as many of them are going through a tough time during the pandemic. Not only does their physical immobility and risk of infection prevent them from going out to get food themselves, but the quarantine forces them into isolation which can have a great toll on their mental health. The lunch program, therefore, helps to alleviate some of these concerns by providing the seniors with fresh meals at their door while also granting them some time for positive social interaction and contact with those who deliver their food. Vickie wants everyone to know how grateful she is for everyone involved in the program and for how much they have contributed. She was in awe of all the volunteer aid she was able to receive during the pandemic. She says that everyone, from the food providers, cooks, and volunteer deliverers, have gone above and beyond the call of duty when helping out. She believes a lot of good has and will come out of this program. A big thank you to the entire Bleecker/Wellesley Activity Network, its partners and volunteers for making this program possible!