Senior programs scramble to reopen after storm

Organizations that provide services to Hall County seniors scrambled Wednesday to get back to a normal schedule following three straight days of disruptions in the wake of power outages and blocked roads from fallen trees caused by Tropical Storm Irma.

Officials with the Community Service Center and The Guest House in Gainesville said programs offered by their respective organization will be open and operating Thursday.

Although power returned to the Community Service Center at 430 Prior St. in Gainesville, meals were not available because the food provider from Cornelia was unable to deliver, said Brandy Palmero, who manages the Meal on Wheels and Senior Life Center programs for the Community Service Center.

Palmero and her staff spent the day calling the approximately 300 seniors they deliver meals to throughout Hall County to see how they are faring. Ten seniors said they were without food. Palmero had members of her staff go to the deli of a local supermarket and buy hot lunches. They delivered meals of three chicken tenders, mashed potatoes, green beans and a roll to the seniors. One senior with an acidic problem got a meal of a plain cheeseburger, apple slices and chocolate milk.

Palmero said the 10 seniors they reached out to were among the most vulnerable.

“They have no family around them,” Palmero said. “They have no other assistance.”

Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of the Community Service Center, said it’s unusual for the organization’s programs to be shut down two days in a row, let alone three.

Moss said that although she had power and staff to operate programs Wednesday, Texas-based Valley Food Service was redirecting many of its staples to hurricane-devastated areas around Houston and Florida.

“This is now the third day we have not visited our seniors with food,” Moss said. “That’s highly unusual. We’re open, staff is here and running, volunteers are available, but the food provider wasn’t ready. It’s a domino effect.”

The Guest House at 360 Oak St. one of the few day care facilities for seniors in Hall and surrounding counties. It has been forced to keep its doors closed with power out and staff unable to report to work. Seniors who spend the day at the facility either have some form of dementia or are frail because of their age. They are mostly dropped off at The Guest House by a family member when the facility opens at 7:30 a.m. and are picked up before closing at 5 p.m.

“Some of our staff live in Habersham,” said Dana Chapman, executive director of The Guest House. “They’ve been without power and water.”

Chapman said the food provider for The Guest House, a catering business in Habersham County, has been closed by the storm.

“He’s been with us two years and gives us an incredible price,” Chapman said of the caterer. “He’s basically doing a donation for us.”

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