Lions step up to get seniors set up for their shots
When the small community of Barkhamsted, Connecticut, got their first stock of vaccinations for their residents age 75 and over, Town Selectman (mayor) Don Stein knew seniors would need help navigating the online portal required to register for their shots. And he knew just who to turn to.
“We’re a bedroom community, “says Stein. “We rely heavily on volunteers to get things done. That’s where organizations like Lions come into play.”
Barkhamsted is a town of 3,700 people and everyone knows the Barkhamsted Lions Club. They mainly support the local senior center, which runs entirely off of volunteers, and Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD). In fact, they’ve started branch clubs for each project in order to better serve them.
“We find one of the best ways to seek out new Lions is to invite friends with a heart for service to a local community service event and the event sells them on becoming a Lion,” says Dave Roberts, past district governor and president of the Barkhamsted Lions.
Roberts has taken the senior center under his wing. “Our senior center is lucky to have him,” says Lucille Delany, who turned 83 in February. Before COVID-19, she and her husband went to lunch at the center on Tuesdays. Once a month, the center hosted a potluck supper. “That was our social life, you know,” she says. “We met a lot of nice people there.”
When the pandemic hit, Lions helped in any way they could, including picking up and delivering prescriptions to seniors. “In the beginning of the pandemic, there was any number of seniors who didn’t want to leave the house,” says Stein. “So, the Lions and the town all collaborated to get people the support.”
Stein knew that getting seniors to schedule their appointments online would require a team of trusted volunteers who could make a lot of calls in a short amount of time. They began by using the town’s voter registrar to identify and call everyone over age 75.
Volunteers were provided scripts on what to say to each senior and lists of seniors to call. They maintained social distance by calling from multiple venues across town. If no one answered, volunteers left detailed messages on how to call Town Hall if they needed assistance scheduling a vaccine appointment.
“Some seniors were lonely and just enjoyed talking, even though they didn’t need help scheduling their vaccine appointments,” says Roberts. “One senior mentioned that her husband had recently passed away and she wanted to donate all his used eyeglasses to Lions.” When calls were completed, the call sheets and accompanying notes were faxed back to Town Hall.
So far they’ve scheduled close to 300 appointments for people.
Lions have also volunteered to provide rides to appointments for those who needed them. “Many seniors don’t like to drive during the winter months or don’t have transportation,” says Roberts.
Delany and her husband are just grateful they have the center and look forward to when things open back up again. “When we were younger we thought, ‘Oh we’ll wait until we’re older,’” she says. “We didn’t think we were old enough to join a senior center. But once we did, we were so glad.”
Erin Kasdin is the senior editor of Lion Magazine.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted communities around the world in different ways. To ensure we’re serving safely wherever we live, Lions should follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization or local health authorities. Visit our Serving Safely page for resources that can help you safely serve your community.