Senior needs skyrocket during pandemic. Here's how we're helping.

Norma Spruill can easily list all the ways Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia helps her and Lynn, her husband of more than 30 years.

There’s Meals on Wheels, which delivers food three times a week to their Cavalier Manor home in Portsmouth. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the agency’s companion program provided an aide to stay with 88-year-old Lynn, who has dementia, so that Norma had a break to take walks or do other tasks.

Then there’s the structural work underneath her floor – repaired by Senior Services.

“I couldn’t afford to have it done on my own,” said Norma, 77. The retired clerical worker now undergoes cancer treatment. Her husband is a retired public utilities employee.

The agency got a financial boost because of special grants that the Hampton Roads Community Foundation provided in 2020, following the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. Senior Services is one of dozens of nonprofits in the region thankful for the help.

First, the community foundation and the United Way of South Hampton Roads jointly awarded $15,000 to Senior Services to help older adults with food and other essential items. Later, the foundation provided an additional $5,000 for the same tasks.

In a statement, community foundation President and CEO Deborah DiCroce called the region’s nonprofits “the proverbial front line for triaging Covid-19’s immediate impact and for rebuilding lives and communities over the long haul.”

Steve Zollos, chief executive officer at the Norfolk-based Senior Services, said the grant funding has been vital in helping seniors, who make up nearly 14 percent of the regional population, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

“The food was the primary thing,” he said. “The demand for the services skyrocketed.”

A Covid-19 grant funded meals to seniors in need.

In 2019, the organization delivered 100,000 meals to people in its 2,000-square mile coverage area in the region. Zollos said the nonprofit will likely triple the number of meals in 2020.

Drivers also have delivered personal protective equipment, paper goods and other essential items. To keep seniors engaged socially, staffers sent out 1,000 activity kits.

Without the additional funding from the foundation, Senior Services would have been forced to make tough decisions on how to stretch dollars it had. Zollos said the special grant money “empowered our organization and the community to rally around our older adults.”

Spruill, the Portsmouth retiree, said the help to seniors sustains people like her and her husband. The agency and its staffers are a blessing, checking in and providing assistance.

“They are a very excellent organization,” she said, adding, “they’re very nice to me.”

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