Coronavirus shuts off lifeline to seniors; Southport police rally community to help

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To the Southport Police Department, protect and serve means keeping the community safe, but also taking care of the less fortunate. Once the coronavirus pandemic hit, the police department was especially concerned about elderly people in the community.

“We have a lot of seniors who can’t get out,” said Assistant Police Chief Lossie Davis. “They don’t always have the resources to get to the store. Sometimes we forget about the elderly. Some of them don’t have family; they don’t have anybody.”

Last week, the police department asked the community to join them in serving those who are less fortunate. Organizations, businesses and volunteers responded in a big way, donating food, essentials, money and workers. CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions donated 120 freshly prepared and frozen meals through its Meals & More program. Officers will deliver the meals to those in need.

The frozen meals will be in addition to care packages the department’s community resource team began organizing last week. With donations from food banks and businesses, volunteers created an assembly line to box up food and essentials that seniors need. Officers are making the deliveries themselves. As of March 26, they had served more than 200 people in 133 households. They expect to serve more as the shelter-in-place order continues. 

“We consider ourselves a family as a police agency,” Davis said. “We have to come together in crisis, and we have to lean on each other.”

Officers have dug into their own pockets to help provide food and other necessities when they have found seniors struggling. They have also come in during their days off to give seniors rides for dialysis or other medical appointments. Many seniors rely on family members or shuttles that no longer are available because of the pandemic. Police officers have been filling in the gaps. Other organizations, like CICOA and Perry Senior Services, are also mobilized to make sure needs are met.

Coming together to help seniors when their lifelines are cut off

Because of increased calls to its hotline and the police department hotline, Perry Senior Services set up a makeshift office in the police station to collaborate with officers. On a normal day, the organization gets calls from seniors looking for help with transportation or information about services. Once the pandemic hit, the number of calls increased from seniors afraid to go to the grocery store or pharmacy or unable to find milk, bread or toilet paper.

The senior population typically does not seek out help, because they have lived through hard times. That makes serving them even more important, said Perry Senior Services Director Melissa Johnson.

“They’ll say, I hate to ask for help, but the person who usually helps me is self-quarantining,” Johnson said. “Their lifelines have been cut off.”

One heartbreaking call came from a woman in hospice, whose caregiver could not attend to her. She needed help because she could stand only a few minutes at a time, not long enough to make meals.

Filling the urgent need to provide meals for seniors

Like Perry Senior Services, CICOA has seen requests for meal assistance increase. During a normal week, CICOA – which serves Marion and the donut counties – receives three to six calls from hungry seniors. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, calls have more than doubled.

In addition, CICOA is working to make sure that more than 1,300 seniors who had meals at community meal sites in central Indiana – which are now closed – have access to food. CICOA’s Meals & More is providing packages of 10 freshly prepared, frozen meals at the meal sites in Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Marion, Morgan and Shelby counties. CICOA also is delivering to those who don’t have transportation to pick up the meals.

In order to meet the increased demand, CICOA is seeking donations to cover the costs.

It takes a village to care for our elders

Assistant Police Chief Davis said the community owes it to the senior population to help them out during these difficult times.

“I have a love for the elderly. I always have,” Davis said. “That’s where a lot of our wisdom and knowledge come from. I look to them, and I would do anything I can to support them. One day, I’m going to be old, and I pray someone would do the same for me.”

Organizations and businesses that have donated to help the elderly in Southport include:

  • Archer’s Meats
  • Bubba’s 33
  • Chik-fil-A
  • Christie’s of Indiana
  • CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions
  • Gleaners
  • Jaggers
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s Home Improvement
  • McDonald’s
  • Midwest Food Bank
  • Portillo’s
  • Second Helpings
  • Southport Used Appliances
  • United Natural Foods
  • Walmart
  • White Castle
  • Zore’s Towing

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