Submitted by Whatcom Council on Aging

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the Whatcom Council on Aging has adapted services from meals to exercise classes to meet the needs of older adults in Whatcom County. Since the beginning of Washington’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order in March, the demand for home delivered “Meals on Wheels” by local seniors has grown by more than 50%. In April and May, Meals on Wheels and More program staff and volunteers delivered over 3,000 nutritionally balanced meals per week to an average of 450 homebound and self-isolating seniors throughout Whatcom County. Meals delivered by a friendly face, at a safe physical distance, have meant so much to those who are more isolated than ever.

“Thank you for the deliveries and caring you have shown,” says Jeannie N., a current Meals on Wheels client. Another client sent a note simply stating, “You are heroes in the fight against COVID-19.”

Weekly, Meals on Wheels and More is distributing approximately 1,800 scratch prepared fresh and frozen meals at seven Whatcom County locations. With the help of partner Senior Centers in Bellingham, Blaine, Ferndale, Sumas, Everson and Point Roberts, more than 300 older adults have been provided for in their own communities. Through a partnership with the Foothills Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and More has expanded services to include meal distribution at the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center.

Meal distribution began Tuesday, May 27th with 50 seniors served. At all meal sites seniors have been delighted to receive extras with their meals including fresh produce, toilet paper, inspiring notes, masks, and shelf-stable products.

It is because of generous community support that services have not been interrupted but have expanded during this time. In the past two months, The Mount Baker Foundation, Whatcom Community Foundation and Haggen Foundation have all given grants to support the on-going work of the Whatcom Council on Aging. Students from Squalicum High School have written over 400 cards and notes to be included with home delivered meals, the Whatcom Community Helpers COVID-19 group has donated masks for clients and volunteers and, the Whatcom Humane Society has provided pet food to clients in need.

“We want to thank all of you for the work you have done to keep people safe and fed during this pandemic. Thank you also for your efforts to keep in touch with people isolated by the situation. You’re making a huge difference. We miss our vibrant senior center…” says a note received from Bellingham Senior Activity Center members Barbara M. & Joe H.

While the building that houses the programs of the Whatcom Council on Aging is closed, there is much going on behind the scenes to help local senior citizens remain active and connected. Staff and volunteers from the Whatcom Council on Aging have made hundreds of phone calls to members of the Bellingham Senior Activity Center, Bellingham at Home members and to Meals on Wheels clients.

Additionally, Whatcom Council on Aging has transitioned to virtual programing with a wide range of weekly Zoom videoconferences ranging from aerobic and strength training classes to virtual happy hours and discussion groups. Activities are available online for free six days a week. Those interested in learning more about the programs or participating can subscribe to the Bellingham Senior Activity Center’s weekly e-mail at www.whatcomcoa.org

Whatcom Council on Aging, in partnership with the people we serve, offers nutritional, health, social, recreational, and educational programs that promote lifelong independence. For more information contact Molly Simon at msimon@whatcomcoa.org

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