By: Brianna Stephens
During the pandemic, the staff of Christian Appalachian Project’s (CAP) Elderly Services Program have continued to support the needs of participants.
“There is a fear and an uncertainty going on. When our participants are worried, we try to ease their minds,” said Hannah Burdette, an Elderly Services case worker in Rockcastle County. “We call and check on them, let them voice their concerns, and just remind them we’re all in this together.”
Alice Banks lives alone, doesn’t have family in the area, and doesn’t get out much unless it is with CAP staff or with a neighbor every now and then. During the pandemic, staff and volunteers have had to be creative with home visits, including wearing masks and maintaining social distance while also having conversations on the porch and delivering food, personal hygiene products, and other essential items. Plus, Burdette and others have tried to find a way to keep participants busy at home, such as dropping off craft bags.
"Doing these crafts keeps my mind off of the situations going on in the world around me,” said Banks, who has found a way to keep busy while at home by making pillows from dish towels and yarn. These are crafts she taught herself how to make.
Banks enjoys making the pillows, but she enjoys giving them out even more. CAP does a lot for Banks, and she feels like this is a small way she can repay staff and volunteers for all that they do, Burdette said. Banks has also provided pillows for other participants in the program.
“It makes me feel needed and I hope it brings smiles to the ones who receive them. It feels good to be able to give to others that are good to me,” Banks said.
The participants miss the program’s events like holiday celebrations and potluck dinners, but they also miss each other, Burdette said. When they receive a pillow from Banks, it reminds them there are others thinking of them during this time. CAP was recently able to provide Banks with several new dish towels and multiple colors of yarn.
“I think the crafts have helped Alice keep her mind off of everything that has gone on lately,” Burdette added. “Instead of worrying about COVID and other issues going on right now, she is thinking about what color yarn to put with what towel. I’m glad she has found this little hobby. It makes her happy and that’s all we can ask for.”
Renee’ Thomas has lent a hand too. Normally, an in-home respite assistant, Thomas had to alter her daily work due to COVID-19 restrictions about in-home visits. She has been making porch visits and delivering items to participants during the pandemic to support the efforts of the Elderly Services program to stay connected to CAP’s most vulnerable seniors. Thomas recently visited Banks, who told her about her craft project. With her “petty cash,” Thomas bought her craft supplies for her pillows.
“I enjoy socializing during porch visits and phone calls because it enhances our relationship and strengthens the bond that we have with participants,” Thomas said. “It also shows our participants that we care and we’re there for them. Serving our participants is an honor.”
Thomas said by helping program participants during this time, it shows her that the Elderly Services Program is needed now more than ever.
“When our participants know we are there for them to help meet their needs, it builds their hope and lets them know they’re not alone. During this pandemic, our participants have said many times how blessed they are for our services and to have someone to talk to,” Thomas said.
When home quarantine began in the spring, some were complaining how they were bored and how they needed to see and interact with people, Burdette said. That is how seniors feel every day, but the Elderly Services Program is able to step in and be there for them.
“They are home, alone, no visitors or socialization. It breaks my heart,” Burdette said. “This is why our program is so important.”