Butler County non-profit watching out or vulnerable seniors during coronavirus

Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio staff and volunteers deliver LaRosa s meals and personal care supplies to seniors at Belle Tower and Sherman Manor in Hamilton Friday, April 17, 2020. COA serves approximately 26,000 individuals annually, including 5,900 who reside in Butler County. CONTRIBUTED
Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio staff and volunteers deliver LaRosa s meals and personal care supplies to seniors at Belle Tower and Sherman Manor in Hamilton Friday, April 17, 2020. COA serves approximately 26,000 individuals annually, including 5,900 who reside in Butler County. CONTRIBUTED

A non-profit organization is taking steps to keep local seniors safe and nourished during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That includes delivering to seniors who previously attended congregate meals a home-delivered meal, said Randy Quisenberry, director of procurement and provider services for Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio, a state-designated Area Agency on Aging that serves Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton and Warren counties.

“Seniors are really vulnerable right now,” Quisenberry told the Journal-News. “They’re the most at-risk for severe complications and they’re staying at home. They don’t feel comfortable going out and going to the stores.”

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He said COA was fortunate to receive money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act, funding that was dedicated to meal assistance for older Americans.

“We targeted some areas where there’s socioeconomic needs in senior buildings,” Quisenberry said.

Hearing that supply-chain issues might arise during the pandemic, LaRosa’s Inc. partnered “quickly and enthusiastically” with COA to provide seniors in need a meal consisting of spaghetti with LaRosa’s famous family recipe sauce and meatball, plus a salad, bread sticks and condiments, he said.

COA and LaRosa’s on Thursday and Friday fed more than 350 seniors in Butler and Hamilton counties when COA-contracted service providers picked up and delivered the meals to six area low-income senior apartment buildings, including two in Hamilton: Belle Tower on Woodlawn Avenue and Sherman Manor on South 2nd Street.

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Council on Aging CEO Suzanne Burke said everyone is experiencing the effects of stay-at-home orders and social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, but seniors are feeling “especially vulnerable and isolated.”

“Our hope is that the LaRosa’s meals will be a welcome change of pace that brightens the day of seniors in these buildings,” Burke said. “We couldn’t think of a better partner to have in this effort because Buddy LaRosa and his family have been long-time supporters of the county senior services levies we administer in our service area. In fact, Buddy was a caregiver himself.”

To ensure social distancing guidelines and protect the health, safety and privacy of residents in the buildings, the meals were delivered to an on-site coordinator at each building, who then distributed the meals to residents.

“These are such challenging times for everyone, but especially for seniors,” said LaRosa’s Inc. CEO Mike LaRosa. “We’re all in this together, and that’s how we’re going to get through it. So, we were happy to do our part to help Council of Aging serve these seniors.”

The deliveries in Butler and Hamilton counties also included personal supply boxes filled with toilet paper, facial tissues, soap, shampoo and toothpaste.

The meal delivery in Butler and Hamilton counties followed LaRosa’s preparing and delivering 115 warm, ready-to-eat meals to two low-income senior apartment buildings in Hamilton County within hours of notification from COA following an April 8 weather-related power outage.

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COA will continue working with LaRosa’s and its network of service providers to bring more LaRosa’s meals to seniors living in low-income apartment buildings across its service region, Quisenberry said.

COA has been working to meet the needs of seniors who have been impacted by COVID-19, many of whom have never needed assistance before, he said. During the pandemic, it has adapted programs and services to ensure more than 26,000 clients continue to receive the services and support on which they rely, and called to check on seniors’ well-being.

Additionally, COA, through its provider network, delivered more than 7,500 emergency food boxes to home-delivered meals recipients in March, Quisenberry said. Each box contained a 14-day supply of shelf-stable meals to be set aside in the event regular meal delivery is disrupted due to COVID-19. It’s working to deliver 7,500 more boxes by the end of this month to those same seniors.