How The Salvation Army is caring for seniors during COVID-19
Throughout the Western U.S., The Salvation Army has traditionally helped seniors through community meals, joyful activities and visiting those who are homebound. Additionally, the Army houses 3,000 seniors throughout the West in a number of apartment-style communities called Silvercrests.
Seniors have always been a priority to The Salvation Army. Now, with the age group among those considered to be at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19, the Army has modified the way it meets needs and shows love to seniors, following CDC recommendations and social distancing.
In Long Beach, California, The Salvation Army Long Beach Citadel Corps got a call before the state’s Safer at Home orders from a senior who comes to its programs who couldn’t leave home and didn’t have enough food. The corps promised to deliver a food box. That person called her neighbors, and pretty soon the word got out The Salvation Army would deliver food. On the first day, the corps delivered eight food boxes.
By the end of the week, the Army delivered 309 food boxes and food bags to seniors, families and individuals in the Long Beach community, an effort that served more than 1,200 people.
Similarly throughout the Western Territory, the Army has stepped up its food box delivery efforts for seniors, and has modified its group meals to be served in to-go containers that are to be eaten privately.
Officers from the College for Officer Training at Crestmont take the remaining food from the campus’ meal service program daily to seniors at the nearby Redondo Beach (California) Silvercrest residence.
“I carry on conversations with people on their balconies, just saying ‘hi’ and things like that, and I tell you what: they love the fact that they’re not forgotten. They’re getting the meals. They can cook their own meals, but it’s just the fact someone is bringing it to them,” said Continuing Education Officer Major Brian Bearchell in the March 27 prayer livestream. “What they really appreciated was the other day we delivered four rolls of toilet paper to every room…it was such a relief to them that they didn’t have to stand out in line.”
In addition to providing food, The Salvation Army has delivered additional items to seniors, including water, paper products and cleaning supplies where it is needed.
Beneficiaries from the Riverside County (California) Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) packaged toilet paper to deliver to the homes of local retired officers and their neighbors. The beneficiaries rang the doorbell, dropped the items and ran, but were still caught a few times.
In one case, a retired officer was trying to figure out how he was going to pick up an emergency prescription his wife needed. So, the group made a trip to Walgreens and returned with the medication.
“It was awesome for the guys to see just how God works,” said Major Tammy Larson, Administrator for Program at the Riverside County ARC.
In addition to meeting seniors’ practical needs, The Salvation Army has found ways to keep spirits high during this time of isolation.
The Silvercrest department at Territorial Headquarters has established a “Silver Line” for residents, allowing them to speak to Sarah Bentley at THQ for emotional and spiritual support. Residents will be notified of the line through a mailed card that will reach all of the 3,000 residents.
Throughout the territory, the Army is helping seniors by performing wellness checks by phone and email, teaching social media skills to help them stay connected, offering emotional and spiritual support as well as online shopping assistance.
Administrators at the Chula Vista (California) Silvercrest held an outdoor concert with Music Worx March 20 from the parking lot so residents could listen from their balconies. Guided exercise also got them moving as they stood in the fresh air and sang along.
They plan to continue programs to help residents combat isolation and depression during COVID-19, said Resident Wellness Director Karin Michelle Ingrande.
“The residents were delighted to get this interaction and we had a huge participation as we visited each side of the building for 30 minutes,” she said.
Silvercrest Executive Director Susan Lawrence said March 27 that the Silvercrest residences to date have no cases of COVID-19, but that her department is issuing a procedures document in the event cases do occur.
Lawrence said that not only do the 3,000 residents appreciate the support of the corps and cadets, but also the staff, who at times feel isolated.
“For them to see The Salvation Army in action has been a blessing to them,” Lawrence said.