The awarding of two grants to the Council on Aging – one to provide much-needed transportation to Hull’s seniors and the other in support of the popular Better Together hot meals program – could not have come at a better time for an agency continuing to wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Receiving these grants that the staff and I applied for helps us continue to be an important resource for seniors,” Director of Elder Services Lisa Thornton told The Hull Times.
Meeting the transportation needs of senior residents who have experienced profound social isolation during the pandemic and are dependent on others for their transportation needs has been a major challenge, Thornton said.
“The $27,900 [MassDevelopment/Metropolitan Area Planning Council] transportation grant will be a wonderful resource for us to offer rides to seniors – for medical appointments, grocery shopping, pharmacy pickups, or even vaccine appointments,” she explained.
The goal of the program is in part to help foster new business for taxi and livery companies during COVID-19 and, in turn, benefit local communities by providing much-needed transportation.
Senior center van driver Mickey Corcoran works diligently, driving seniors to various destinations. “He is not Superman, but sometimes it seems as if he is,” Thornton said.
Due to social distancing guidelines, many seats on the van remain empty, making it difficult to accommodate all the ride requests. “This grant fills that gap,” she said.
The COA will use the grant money to contract with Seaside Transport of Hull to facilitate non-emergency transportation. “When I was asked if I was willing to [participate], I said, ‘Yes, of course!’ I’m a Hull resident and am happy to help out,” said Seaside Transport owner Mike Ashe. “I love having conversations with seniors when providing them with rides.” (Seniors in need of transportation can call the senior center at 781-925-1239 to request a ride.)
The $9,600 grant for the Better Together meals program was awarded by the Massachusetts Council on Aging under the nutrition/food insecurity category.
“We are grateful to be able to continue to offer the Better Together hot meals program into the warmer months through this grant,” Thornton said. “Hopefully after that we will do some fundraising and receive more donations.”
COA Chairman Jim Richman said of the grant: “We’ve been feeding a lot of people – about 100 residents now – which is great. Food security isn’t going away. This program is dear to my heart, and I don’t want to see it disappear due to a lack of funding.”
Since the Better Together partnership between Wellspring Multi-Service Center and Hull’s Council on Aging began in May 2020, hundreds of restaurant-prepared hot meals have been delivered to seniors, people with disabilities, families and others in need.
At the same time, Better Together supports local restaurants that are struggling during the current economic downturn.
In addition to grants, Better Together is made possible by donations from the community, the participation of local eateries, Meals on Wheels volunteers, and senior center staff members who make the deliveries every Thursday. Currently, Schooner’s, Jake’s, and The Parrot are preparing the meals.
Thornton, who was hired to fill the director position in December, voiced appreciation for the warm welcome she said she has received, not only from seniors but also from town officials and the community at large. “Hull has such a strong sense of community. It’s like a big family, with people wanting to support and be there for each other,” she said. “The kindness, compassion, and generosity expressed among community members, our regular volunteers, and the staff is quite amazing.”
Richman is looking forward to working with COA members Brian McCarthy, Maureen O’Brien, and recently sworn-in members Robert Goldstein, Hannah Taverna, Mimi Leary, Michael Maloon, and David Weekley “to ensure that the needs of our seniors continue to be met. The COA is a diverse group. I’m excited to get started.”