A good meal can go a long way to lifting spirits.
That’s the motivation behind Hope-To-Go, a free meal program for seniors that Cottage Grove Place started last week.
The senior living facility teamed up with the Irish Democrat to offer free meals to anyone over the age of 65 who signed up. They’re planning to continue the program with different restaurants; they’ll hand out meals from Starlite Room next.
Seniors 65 years and older interested in a meal can call the Cottage Grove Place reservation line at (319) 297-7303 and leave their name and phone number. A representative will reach out to take their order and schedule pick-up.
“Last week we were kind of talking and said, ‘How do we reach out and help out in the community?’” said Cottage Grove Place sales and marketing director Brian Kramer.
They knew restaurants, ordered closed except for carryout and delivery business, were hurting. They also knew first hand the challenges of isolation and loneliness facing seniors, who are at high risk for COVID-19.
“One of the things we recognize with the restrictions is there are a lot of seniors who are lonely at home and might need some relief from the day and also might need a good meal,” said Mark Bailey, Cottage Grove Place executive director. “We thought this would kind of be a win-win for the seniors and for the community neighborhood restaurants.”
People getting the meals drive up, roll down a window and the lunch is placed in the back seat, along with a care package, so it is a no-contact interaction. Kramer said he hoped people would be able to at least see some friendly faces and perhaps chat a bit while picking up the meals.
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“We’ve had people tell us we just don’t want to leave our house, and I totally agree with that. They can get in their vehicle, they can drive, get out,” he said. “It’s very small, but I hope it leaves an impression on people.”
Scott Loshbaugh, owner of the Irish Democrat, said they were surprised but gratified when Cottage Grove reached out to them.
“Some of our guests wanted to participate and donate lunches, and they declined that, they declined a discount,” he said.
He said it was gratifying to see people’s smiles when they got the meal.
“It felt good,” he said. “It gives you a sense of community.”
Loshbaugh said they’ve had a steady stream of carry out business after having to close for dine-in business, and he attributes that in part to their 35-year history in the community.
“I think that shows, we’ve got a real faithful following,” he said. “We’re doing well, we’ve had just a fantastic response from the community.”
Cottage Grove Place has around 250 residents and offers services from skilled nursing to independent living. The facility has put in place measures to try to keep the coronavirus out, as Linn County faces an outbreak of COVID-19 that has struck numerous people at a different nursing home in town. They have restricted visitors and are delivering meals to rooms rather than serving them in the communal dining area, among other things.
John Naxera of Shueyville normally has dinner with his father Victor Naxera, 90, every Tuesday night.
But for the last three weeks, interactions have been mostly over the phone and waving through a window.
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John Naxera said his father, who lives in independent living housing at Cottage Grove Place, is quite social and since moving there about three years ago has enjoyed long mealtimes with a group of friends also living there. Now, he can’t do that.
“My mom died 3 years ago. My folks were married over 50 years. It’s really stressful for my father; he’s on his own, he doesn’t really understand everything that’s going on,” John Naxera said. “But I understand the situation they’re in with keeping people safe. They’re making the best of what they’ve got and make the best of a bad situation.”
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