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O’Neill Center offering two senior food services during shutdown

Photo submitted Boxes of groceries are unloaded from an O'Neill Center van so they can be separated and boxed for local seniors.

Two O’Neill Center projects are helping Washington County seniors get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first project helps seniors with their groceries.

“Basically all of our services were shut down,” said Connie Huntsman, O’Neill Center executive director. “We had to find a way to reach out to the seniors to see what they needed.”

What she heard was that they needed more access to food such as bread, eggs and milk.

Huntsman reached out to the United Way to see if they could help. The center was given money to purchase food for 100 seniors. The funding started as giving the seniors a box every two weeks valued at $25. The food was purchased, then separated into individual bags before delivery.

“We had 51 people the first week and 50 the second,” Huntsman said.

She talked with Laura Miller, corporate secretary for Settlers Bank, as there were still 30 people on the waiting list. Miller talked with the bank president and got funding for the 30 people in need.

“We now feed the 130 people every two weeks with the $25 box. They get milk, bread and eggs, and on alternate weeks, they might get a bag of potatoes or a box of spaghetti with sauce,” Huntsman said. “They can get pudding, cheese slices, oatmeal, crackers and tuna, anything to help seniors reduce the trips outside of their homes.”

Miller said some of the seniors used to get rides to the grocery store, but those rides aren’t available right now. She was told United Way could sponsor up to 100 seniors, but there was still a waiting list.

“We’re a true community bank,” she said. “That means we want to serve local people. As a small bank, we can have an impact on people here in our community.”

She said the decision to pay for food for the 30 seniors was an easy one.

Miller noted that the boxes have food that are staples that people can make multiple meals with.

“It’s a good grocery survival kit,” she said.

The second project is helping seniors with meals.

Huntsman said Joe Momma’s Kitchen was delivering a lot of meals to seniors, but when they were able to open their doors to the public again, delivering meals to seniors wouldn’t be possible.

She said she reached out to Joe Mommas’ owner, Sarah Sauls, to discuss purchasing food for senior meals.

“We were trying to meet the needs,” she said. “We don’t have the resources to buy the food, but we have the resources to deliver them.”

Funding from private donors at the Marietta Community Foundation are now used to purchase 100 meals a day from Joe Momma’s, and 100 meals a day from Jeremiah’s Coffee House.

“We purchase the food from them and we package it up and deliver it,” Huntsman said.

The projects are expected to last until the O’Neill Center is once again open.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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