A small gathering of about a dozen or so people huddled outside the entrance of Safeway on a brisk Truckee morning. Masked against both the cold winds and health threats, an employee offered to wipe down shopping cart handles with disinfectant wipes as the shoppers awaited entrance like they were in an episode of Supermarket Sweep.
“I’m sorry,” said the masked woman, explaining to the crowd that they’d have to wait another seven minutes until the special shopping hours ended for seniors and those at risk. Friendly banter was shared as people maintained their 6 feet of social distancing, just happy to be out of the house and talking to others.
Following the emergence of the novel coronavirus, Safeway and Save Mart and Raley’s have instituted policies permitting seniors 65 and over and those at higher risk of contracting the illness to shop from 6 to 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Raley’s, 7 to 9 a.m. New Moon’s daily Wisdom Hour for seniors and immunocompromised individuals is from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.
Rite Aid is now open daily to seniors only, from 9 to 10 a.m. Raley’s is also offering curbside pickup for prescriptions for seniors at pharmacy locations, and senior essentials bags at a discounted price for curbside or in-store pickup; two price levels are available. Their regular operating house have also changed to provide extra time for restocking of merchandise. (Safeway and Save Mart are now open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Raley’s, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in Incline Village, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. in Reno.)
“It seems like the community is really coming together,” one Safeway employee, who preferred not to be named on account of Safeway’s corporate press-relations policy, told Moonshine Ink. “It’s a bummer that this is what it takes.”
The employee said that since Safeway instituted the policy, he has seen much support, with those who showed up to shop during the restricted hours being nothing but understanding when turned away. Of course, there are always a few bugs to work at the start of any new policy: A few folks showed up to shop at 6 a.m. because the store voicemail, which is controlled by corporate headquarters, said the restricted hours were from 7 to 9 a.m. But those shoppers took it all in stride, saying they’d return after 9.
“We’re doing whatever we can do,” the employee said of accommodating higher-risk shoppers.
Much like the virus itself, the socioeconomic aspects of the coronavirus don’t discriminate. The effects are far-reaching across all demographics, although for some of those affected, the impact of the hit will be more forceful than it is for others. Senior citizens, for one, are a particularly vulnerable group more prone to feeling the devastating effects of COVID-19, and Sierra Senior Services is doing whatever it can to look out for the region’s aging population.
The group’s Meals on Wheels program has grown since the ‘stay at home order: “This week we have had an 8% increase,” Sierra Senior Services Executive Director Sharon Romack said in an email to Moonshine Ink. “We do expect the numbers to continue to grow.”
Any senior over age 60 who is need of a hot, midday meal can go, or send someone on their behalf, to the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments between noon and 12:45 p.m. to pick one up. Delivery can also be arranged by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (530) 550-7600. The service is available on weekdays only, and are the same meals provided to Meals on Wheels participants. The current menu can be found sierraseniors.org. Meals are available regardless of income level.
“Our regular Meals on Wheels program keeps rolling,” Romack explained. “[Drivers] are practicing additional sanitizing procedures including additional hand sanitizing before and after each delivery. Our vehicles are sanitized before they go out on their route and when they return. Coolers and hot boxes used during delivery are also sanitized before the food is packed and when those items return from a route.”
Although many people have been reaching out to see where they can donate food and nonperishable items for those in need, Romack said her organization is unable to accept donations at this time on account of precautionary health measures in place. They are, however, permitted to accept food donations from commercial entities, and have received goods from West Shore Café and Christy Hill restaurant. Truckee’s Old Town Tap was gracious enough to provide appetizers, salads, and pizzas for Sierra Senior Services volunteers working sometimes 10-hour days.
“As far as support … we are somewhat limited,” said Romack. “Because of health requirements, we are not able to accept donations of food, so the best way to help us would be a cash donation. As our numbers increase, we have to purchase more food and would appreciate help with that. We are also driving more miles making our deliveries, so gas cards would offset the cost of the extra gas we are burning.”
With a surge in new volunteers — over 35 in a matter of days — Sierra Senior Services is covered for now. Romack reiterated that the best way to help is with a monetary donation through sierraseniors.org or by mailing checks made out to Sierra Senior Services to P.O. Box 4152, Truckee, CA 96160.
While seniors account for a good part of those considered high risk at this time, there are many other individuals who find themselves in need.
“We are already seeing the impact on our community with school and ski resort closures, job loss and limited access to basic needs,” Sierra Community House Executive Director Paul Bancroft states in a note on the nonprofit’s website. “The ramifications of these disruptions to our lives will have far-reaching effects.”
The Tahoe-City-based organization offers assistance in hunger relief, crisis intervention and family support, and legal/mediation services.
“At Sierra Community House, we are concerned about getting food to those who face food insecurity,” Bancroft’s statement continues. “We are concerned about people’s mental health as they face isolation amid increased stress to meet their basic needs. We are concerned about people who may now find it harder to leave an abusive relationship. We are concerned for all of our community members who have lost or experienced a substantial decrease to their income and are worried about paying rent.”
The nonprofit is currently in the midst of a fundraising effort to better assist those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of publication, $32,218 of the $500,000 goal had been raised. Additional information can be found at sierracommunityhouse.org.
The Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee comprises a network of more than 45 health, education, and social service agencies. According to director Alison Schwedner, CCTT’s partner agencies provide core support services that have become even more critical as of late and extend beyond just seniors.
“Demand for food services has spiked significantly over the past week,” Schwedner told Moonshine Ink in an email. “Our partners have significantly rallied to ensure local residents are being fed — the school district is providing breakfast and lunch to all local kids, the Boys and Girls club is now providing pick up dinners, Sierra Senior Services is providing meal delivery, and Sierra Community House and is providing food delivery.
An affiliate of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, CCTT connects philanthropy and resources with community needs and opportunities, an integral part of helping others during this time.
“Many of our partners are determining, in this moment, how to best utilize volunteers, and all can benefit from direct financial support,” Schwedner said. “The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation has launched a local Emergency Response Fund and all proceeds will be directed towards community need.”