The spread of the coronavirus brought the Life Enrichment Center of Oyster Bay's programs and activities to an end for the time being on March 13, following a directive from County Executive Laura Curran.
The center has roughly 450 members. Staff members have been calling 70 seniors each day to see if they need food or medication during the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s nice for our members to have a friendly chat with us, and at the same time we make sure they’re safe and healthy,” said Christopher Judge, the center’s administrative assistant. “We do get some return calls from them, too.”
Judge said that the county has provided some shelf-stable meals, which will be delivered to seniors who have a shortage of food. And there are some meals in the center’s freezer for emergencies.
Palumbo said she was sure that the lunches aren’t the main reason why seniors come to the center. “They come here for the camaraderie,” she said. “Those that have called said they miss the social circle terribly.”
Carmela Lancaster, of Jericho, said that she and her husband, Don, love the center. “The staff is marvelous and can’t help you enough,” she said. “We play Bingo on Fridays and belong to Senior Chat, where we have discussions. And Don belongs to Grumpy Old Men — they tell jokes. The best thing is when you’re there, nobody feels old.”
The center is not alone in its efforts to help seniors. They need help now more than ever, said State Legislator Josh Lafazan, of Woodbury. He posted a video on YouTube last week asking for volunteers to shop for seniors who can’t leave home, either because of transportation issues or a fear of contacting the coronavirus. The next day many people called, said Lafazan.
He paired volunteers, which include high school students and people who have their own children, with seniors living in their communities. “They’re people that want to give back,” Lafazan said.
Everyone has benefited in more ways than expected, he said. “The volunteer and senior establish a connection and are building a rapport,” Lafazan said, adding that he has nearly four dozen volunteers. “I’m in a position to put people together to make a difference. I feel like this is the most important part of my job — protecting those that are the most vulnerable among us.”
For now, he said, he has more volunteers than seniors. But he encouraged those wishing to connect with a volunteer shopper to call (516) 571-6218.