Local agencies receive grants to help seniors through pandemic

  • People listen to Dennis and Megs at an outdoor concert at the Bernardston Senior Center in June. With a $3,231 grant, the Senior Center plans to provide an outreach newsletter to help residents stay informed. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • People sit in the shade listening to an outdoor concert by Dennis and Megs at the Bernardston Senior Center in June. With a $3,231 grant, the Senior Center plans to provide an outreach newsletter to help residents stay informed. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • People chat over coffee and pastries during a “soft reopening” of the Northfield Senior Center in August. A $2,769 grant from LifePath will support the Senior Center’s Technology Assistance for Seniors Who Are Isolated program. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/24/2020 4:11:47 PM

GREENFIELD — LifePath will give two local senior centers and two local agencies money it received from the CARES Act to serve residents in need during the pandemic.

The Munson Street nonprofit that serves seniors and others in Franklin County, Athol, Petersham, Royalston and Phillipston will grant a total of $16,500 to the four organizations. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding was made available through the state Administration for Community Living and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs.

The Orange-based North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy will receive $4,500 to provide support to elders with mental disabilities. The organization provides protection, advocacy, support and practical assistance for people with behavioral health, cognitive or developmental disabilities by developing and supporting relationships between a person who would benefit from support and a community citizen whose interests and capabilities are relevant to that person’s needs.

“We’ll be recruiting advocates,” North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy Executive Director Nate Johnson said of the funding’s use. “It will give us more staffing. We match advocates with citizens. They make sure they are getting the food they need, making medical appointments, and sometimes just providing a phone call to those who are lonely.”

Johnson said North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy is grateful to LifePath for the support.

Community Legal Aid, which could not be reached for comment, will receive $6,000 for the Elder Law Project in Unprecedented Times.

According to LifePath Marketing and Grants Coordinator Janis Merrell, new legal issues have emerged for elders who are vulnerable during the pandemic — from fighting to keep a laundry room in public housing open to tenants, to getting an assisted living resident re-admitted to her apartment after a hospital visit and positive COVID-19 test result.

LifePath has provided the money for increased outreach, responding to new and different legal issues arising from the pandemic, assisting elders with access to unemployment benefits and assisting elders at risk of homelessness, loss of income, health care coverage, other basic benefits and more.

The Bernardston Senior Center will use its $3,231 to provide an outreach newsletter to help residents stay informed about how to stay safe, update them on available services and programs offered at the Senior Center, provide them with instructions on how to make face masks and more. The newsletter, while being informative, also contains some levity to ease the stresses faced by those affected by the pandemic, according the Council on Aging Director Hayley Bolton.

“This funding is a blessing,” Bolton said. “It will be used toward the cost of the monthly newsletter to all Bernardston residents. It keeps people informed about things like fuel assistance, meals, all sorts of things. It’s a good way to keep in touch with people who aren’t getting out because of the pandemic.”

Bolton said the Senior Center has been closed to the public since mid-March, but has held a few socially distanced activities in the parking lot, with attendees wearing masks. The center also still provides drive-thru meals Monday through Friday, the brown bag program and its food pantry, which distributed 30 pounds of groceries to 100 households last month.

“We’re always grateful for help like this,” she said.

The Northfield Senior Center, which could not be reached for comment, will receive $2,769 from LifePath for its Technology Assistance for Seniors Who Are Isolated program. According to Merrell, seven to 10 of the town’s most isolated elders, who do not have computers or internet access and are unable to participate in social activities or visual “wellness checks,” will receive iPads. Volunteers will assist with setup, internet connection and installation of email, text messaging, video conferencing and personalized apps.

“Partnering with these organizations actively engaged in providing these vital services in the COVID era will make us more effective in our mission to support elders,” LifePath Executive Director Barbara Bodzin said. “We are grateful to them for their outstanding work and to our funders for making these programs possible.”

LifePath’s Citizens Advisory Board, made up of residents ages 60 and older, reviewed the grant applications and made funding recommendations.

For more information, call LifePath at 413-773-5555 or 978-544-2255 or visit lifepathma.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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