EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 9, 2013

They make sure those who need help get help

By Yadira Betances

---- — LAWRENCE — Despite predictions of up to 2 feet of snow and whipping winds, the elderly and needy in the area will still be getting the services throughout the Blizzard of 2013.

Cor Unum meal center in South Lawrence was opened for dinner last night and will be open today for breakfast from 6 to 8 a.m. and for dinner from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., said coordinator Diane Jarvis.

She said 200 people were at breakfast yesterday, double the number of people whom they serve on a regular day.

“We were so busy because I think people were concerned they might not get out,” Jarvis said.

She said the meal center sponsored by St. Patrick Parish decided to open today so no one would go hungry.

“Even if one person comes, we’ll serve them. Anyone who comes out in this type of weather deserves a meal,” Jarvis said.

Ken Campbell, food coordinator at Lazarus House in Lawrence, said staff members came up with alternative plans to make sure no one went without food.

At the soup kitchen, staff members served a hearty breakfast yesterday and gave each guest a bag containing sandwiches, bananas, apples, oranges, apple sauce, juice boxes, cookies, and chips.

”We’re concerned about people walking to the soup kitchen during the severe weather,” Campbell said.

The soup truck that usually goes out on Fridays was suspended for the safety of volunteers and clients yesterd. The food truck will be back out on the road tomorrow. In addition to food, clients will also be getting coats and blankets.

At Elder Services of Merrimack Valley, Executive Director Rosanne DiStefano said during storms they have a virtual office. While staff members work from home, they have their clients caseloads and check with them over the telephone.

”We want to make sure they are receiving the services that they need and check if they are safe, have electricity,” she said.

There will be no meal delivery services, but each client receives food they can use during the storm.

DiStefano said they check on its 7,000 clients with priority going to those who are frail, the disabled, live alone or have serious medical conditions.

Alison Basmajian and Beth Dimitruk of Home Health/VNA Merrimack Valley Hospice do the same.

Basmajian said they have an on-call coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week and prioritize clients with acute need such as those who take insulin, need wound treatment or have respiratory problems.

“We try to educate and insure that our clients and their caretakers are educated and that they have the appropriate amount of medication, supplies and food,” she said.

Basmanjian said clients are referred to the section on planning for emergencies in the Patient’s Handbook, specifically 211, a number accessible for Massachusetts and New Hampshire residents that connects them to shelters and other resources in the area.