United Way forms partnership to serve at-risk seniors.

December 21, 2020

Pictured left to right: Stephanie Moore, associate director of the Oceana County Council on Aging; Barbara Sims, director of United Way of the Lakeshore; Mark Trierweiler, president of the Pentwater Service Club; and Kathleen Premer, Director of the Oceana County Council on Aging. – Contributed photo

United Way forms partnership to serve at-risk seniors.

HART — The United Way of the Lakeshore, Oceana County, announced the formation of a partnership to help senior shut-ins — the most at-risk population in Oceana County who are suffering from COVID-19 and holiday depression.

Starting Monday Dec. 21, care bags are being distributed to 125 Oceana County seniors by volunteers of the agency, the Pentwater Service Club and the Mid-Michigan Community Agency.

“We have known for some time that, of all the people impacted by COVID-19, this group is the most at-risk for COVID-19 health complications and isolation-related depression,” said Barbara Sims, director of United Way of the Lakeshore.

“This is a group of people who have helped others over a lifetime and now need to know that their neighbors care about them and what they are going through during this — the most challenging time of their lives,” Sims said.

“Care bags include a potpourri of gifts and personal care items we hope will give an emotional boost to our treasured, homebound senior population that has been isolated for the last 10 months,” said Jill Sutton, executive director of the Mid-Michigan Community Action Agency. “Oceana County is blessed to have so many caring-organizations and individuals willing to pitch in during times of extraordinary need,” Sutton said.

The CDC recently reported that suicides are at their highest level since 1941 — and that was the case prior to the onset of COVID-19. “This is one of those moments in time when you just know something must to be done to show our compassion and love to this vulnerable group of seniors, who were already prone to mental health issues but now are desperate for relief from the crushing effects of isolation related depression,” said Mark Trierweiler, president of the Pentwater Service Club. “Our club members intend to open a dialogue with these neighbors and will work with other non-profit and government agencies to address their unmet needs,” Trierweiler added.

“The packages are festive and cheerful and communicate the concern and love we have for these citizens,” said Stephanie Moore, associate director of the Oceana County Council on Aging, whose volunteers assumed responsibility for assembling and decorating the packages. “The Oceana County Council on Aging (OCCOA) is excited to be working with United Way of the Lakeshore, Pentwater Service Club, and Mid-Michigan Community Action Agency to make these holiday bags come to life! It is the mission of OCCOA to eliminate social isolation and loneliness, which has been especially important during this last year as well as this holiday season.

The three organizations donated money or items valued at $8,895 for the ‘Care’ packages, and the volunteers to get the packages delivered before Christmas. All three agencies vowed to stay in touch with the 125 people until the COVID-19 crisis is over, and beyond.

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