Agency on Aging Responds to Increase in Calls for Assistance During Coronavirus Pandemic — Provides Tips on Staying Connected

Pictured: Regan Smith and Scott Hawthorne; photo courtesy of Area Agency on Aging

As of March 27, the Area Agency on Aging’s professional staff responded to 8,126 calls, 86 percent related to food, that have come into the 24-hour Senior Help Line, an increase of 257 percent over the previous nine days.

In response to those calls, the agency’s staff and 35 volunteers and AmeriCorps members delivered 420 food boxes provided by St. Mary’s Food Bank, 32 food bags filled by Area Agency staff and 500 sack lunches provided by CSAA Insurance Group.  In addition, 107 callers were referred to senior centers for grab-and-go meals or to Meals on Wheels for delivery.

“Our team has been working around the clock to ensure that seniors in our community have the food and nourishment they need at a time when it’s more difficult than ever for them to get to a grocery store. These numbers don’t reflect referrals that have been to other services and resources that are so important to their health and well-being,” said Area Agency on Aging president and CEO Mary Lynn Kasunic.  “It has been an effort driven by an incredible commitment to the clients we serve every day.  In fact, our staff has been bringing in extra cans of food that they purchase on their own when they go shopping for themselves.”

Kasunic said that, “St. Mary’s Food Bank has been a tremendous partner in our outreach, and supplying food pallets every day based on our needs.”

During the nine days prior to March 18, the Senior Help Line responded to 2,091 calls, 25 percent of which were related to food, Kasunic said.

The Senior Help Line (602.264.HELP (4357) or Toll Free at 888.783.7500) is a 24-hour information and assistance resource and central intake for the Area Agency, helping seniors navigate a diverse range of resources.

Among the services are information on benefits including Medicare counseling, family care giving support, legal assistance and links to a variety of other resources that help older adults.

While the help line is always available to Valley seniors, the Agency reminds residents that it is also important to check in on older family, friends and neighbors.

“Isolation at any time can be very difficult for people of all ages, particularly for older adults, but especially during this uncertain time as we try to navigate through unchartered territory,” said Kasunic. “That’s why maintaining consistent contact with older adults who may be isolated or facing isolation is critically important.”

She suggests staying connected in the following ways:

  • Call on a regular basis
  • Connect with friends and family to set up a “call tree” so they hear from several people at various times
  • Offer to deliver food or medicine
  • Use technology if possible — emails, FaceTime, Facebook
  • Encourage them to reach out and ask for assistance

Kasunic said that the Senior Help Line also can provide information about volunteer opportunities for those who may be interested. For more information, visit www.aaaphx.org.

Arizona VFWs Partner with Local Organizations to ‘March Out Hunger’

Food insecurity is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. In the United States, food insecurity affects one in eight people, and one in five households served by a local food bank has at least one member who has served in the U.S. military. This is according to Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States.

Humana, a health and well-being company and a national affiliate partner of the VFW, is bringing the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW) and St. Mary’s Food Bank (one of Feeding America’s network of food banks) together to impact food insecurity locally. Last year, Humana partnered with Feeding America to stage a series of events that drove food donations and raised awareness of food insecurity with a focus on helping veterans.

To address food insecurity among veterans locally, Human, Arizona VFWs and St. Mary’s have partnered to host a food and fund drive, which runs through Feb. 28. The campaign kicked off Saturday, Jan. 19, with a Rucksack March at the Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon. In the military, soldiers carry a heavily-loaded rucksack, similar to a backpack, over a long distance. To bring awareness to food insecurity among military and veterans’ community, participants brought packs filled with food donations and marched the 5K route, delivering the food to St. Mary’s Food Bank at the finish line.

As part of the “March Out Hunger” campaign, non-perishable food will be collected at 19 VFW Posts in Maricopa County, the Humana neighborhood center and 11 Iora Primary Care locations. In the Northeast Valley, community members may drop off donations at:

  • VFW Post 3513, 7220 E. Wilshire Drive, Scottsdale
  • VFW Post 7507, 9624 N. Monterey Drive, Fountain Hills
  • VFW Post 9400, 804 E. Purdue Ave. (7th Street and Cave Creek Road), Phoenix
  • Iora Primary Care – Greenway, 3202 E. Greenway Road, Phoenix

In addition to food donations, members of the community can provide monetary donations to this food drive at http://smfba.convio.net/marchouthunger2019. Learn more about the participating organizations at www.humana.com; www.vfw.org; and www.firstfoodbank.org.

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