WESTFIELD – Low cost lunch for the city’s older residents has long been a staple program at the Westfield Senior Center but, when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, the service encountered new challenges. Those challenges were ameliorated thanks to a $1,000 grant from the Westfield Rotary’s club’s Lynn Boscher COVID Relief Fund.
Tina Gorman, director of the Council on Aging, said recently that the staff at the center was able to make the transition to curbside meals on May 17, 2020, but the cost for the meals increased. Fortunately, the program got a boost when a grant from the Rotary club’s COVID relief fund was offered.
Gorman explained that the program’s budget was strained by the need to buy consumable containers and by other expenses involved in the transition to the take-out meals but said “We didn’t miss a day.
She said “We didn’t want to go up on the price of the meals” and explained “The Rotary grant helped out hugely” by allowing for the purchase not only of containers to serve the meals in but also by allowing for the purchase of storage bins and other needs for the meals program.
Gorman said that the program does more than simply meet the nutritional needs of the older adults who use the service. Gorman explained that a volunteer or staffer takes a minute or two to chat with each recipient waiting in line. That person pays attention to news about other senior center members who may not have used the service recently. “It’s a way for us to keep eyes and ears on what’s going on” she said.
Gorman said that when the curbside service began the agency was providing meals for about 50 recipients but said the number has been as high as 175. “Depending what we’re serving” quipped Joann Boucher, food services coordinator. Gorman said that meals which include mashed potatoes with gravy are, “by far”, always the most popular.
Menus for upcoming meals are found in the Voice of Experience, the COA’s newsletter which is provided to each meal recipient and distributed in the The Westfield News on the last Saturday of each month. The newsletter can also be found on the COA page of the city’s website, cityofwestfield.org.
Gorman said that, as the COVID pandemic recedes, the programs at the COA are “scaling up” gradually. She pointed to a cautionary notice in The Voice of Experience which suggests that, in the interest of safety for both participants and the persons they encounter at the Senior Center, those who have not been fully vaccinated against the disease should consider their situation carefully before going there.
She also said that older adults who may want to be vaccinated but have not been able to get their shots due to transportation or other issues may seek assistance getting vaccinated by calling the Senior Center at (413) 562 6435.
Currently, Gorman said, there are several fitness programs being offered in the morning under a tent at the Senior Center. She said that several programs, such as ‘Chess with Les’ and ‘Sassy Stitchers’, are offered inside the building.
She stressed however that, due to space restrictions, enrollment is limited for all of the programs offered and potential participants must pre-register by calling the Senior Center at (413) 562 6435.
The Rotary’s COVID relief fund was named in honor of long-time Rotarian Lynn Boscher, a prominent city resident who served with the Westfield Chamber of Commerce, the City Council and several other agencies in the city before his death in 2019.
It was established to provide help to those struggling with the effects of the pandemic by a $5,000 donation from his widow, Mary Boscher. The fund more than tripled when contributions were added by the club, individual members and members of the public.
To date, the fund has supported the city with grants to local agencies such as Our House, The Samaritan Inn, Our Community Table, the YMCA of Westfield and the Boys and Girls Club of Westfield.