Special delivery: National Guard takes emergency food boxes to seniors

Delaware National Guard members load up a Humvee full of emergency food that they delivered to Harrington and close to Smyrna at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover on Wednesday morning. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — With some emergency food boxes and shelf stable meals ready to be sent to Meals on Wheels clients throughout Kent County, Carolyn Fredricks, president and CEO of the Modern Maturity Center in Dover, couldn’t think of a better delivery person to contact than the Delaware National Guard.

They gladly answered the call.

Around 20 members of the Delaware National Guard crawled out of 10 Humvees from New Castle to load up the emergency food at the Modern Maturity Center on Wednesday morning to deliver 53 emergency boxes to the Harrington Senior Center and another 30 boxes to the Mamie Warren Senior Center just outside of Smyrna.

Carolyn Fredricks, president and CEO of the Modern Maturity Center in Dover, gives instructions to members of the Delaware National Guard as they prepare to load boxes of food. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Captain Bernie Kale, spokesman for the Delaware National Guard, said it was a perfect opportunity for the National Guard group, which was made up of three or four different units.

“The mission for this is a great opportunity for the Guard to be a part of the state response for COVID, but it is logistics, right?” Captain Kale said. “So, we do logistics all the time in the military, we train for it, so while there are a lot of unique things about this, if we need to move things to different areas of Dover or Delaware we can do it, because that’s what we train for.

“This is what we do. We’re good at planning, executing and logistics, so that’s sort of our wheelhouse.”

Addison Brode, right, and Diana Dill with Harrington Sunshine 4-H help unload food from a Army National Guard Hum V at the Harrington Senior Center on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The regular volunteers for Meals on Wheels in Dover certainly appreciated the assistance, considering they were in the process of delivering more than 1,500 meals around Kent County themselves on Liver and Onions Day, one of the most popular lunches the Modern Maturity Center offers.

Meals on Wheels Volunteer Coordinator Trudie Clay has about 100 regular volunteers, and certainly welcomed the help.

“I find it amazing that everyone’s able to step up,” Ms. Clay said. “When the clients see that the military is even stepping in that’s just going to lift them up even more and, hopefully, that will give them some encouragement to know that we’re all suffering and everyone’s working together.”

Just like everyone else, the members of the Delaware National Guard had to disinfect their hands upon entering the Modern Maturity Center, answer a couple of questions and have their temperature checked.

Then they got to work loading up boxes and bags filled with pasta, soup, fish sticks, pork loins and other meats as well as shelf stable meals to send off to 150 seniors who reside in Kent County.

“It’s a real beehive of activity in here,” Ms. Fredricks said, with a smile under her face mask.

Cate Lyons, marketing and development coordinator for the Modern Maturity Center, said the organization was more than happy to help deliver even more food to those in need of it.

“Besides just Meals on Wheels, we were asked to be the temporary emergency food assistance site,” Ms. Lyons said. “We basically work with our SNAP clients, our adult daycare clients, and any other clients that we feel are ‘extra need,’ so we can get them these packages of food.

“These are most people at or just above the poverty level, so it’s just to provide them with emergency food assistance. The food comes from the USDA Department of Agriculture. It’s provided to us and then we order what we need, and we can bag it up and take it. This is our second time doing it and this is the first time the National Guard has come to help.”

The emergency food boxes did successfully reach their final destinations in Harrington and near Smyrna — mission accomplished by the Delaware National Guard, and aided by a couple of 4-H Clubs in Harrington, which helped deliver some meals.

“Today was especially heartwarming as we partnered with Modern Maturity Center to distribute meals to 53 of our senior families,” said Karen Crouse, executive director of the Harrington Senior Center. “We had 4-H volunteers from Harrington Sunshine 4-H Club and Peach Blossom 4-H Club. Community service is something very important to these two clubs and they are always willing to help with any community service project. The Harrington Police Department has been a tremendous help to us delivering meals when we have had drivers cancel.”

Ms. Crouse said the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has increased the number of people who are food insecure, especially seniors.

“These are folks that are afraid to go out shopping or, financially with the price of food going up and items not available in the stores, needed help that they normally would not have needed had it not been for the coronavirus,” she said. “This virus has impacted our members in a variety of ways.

“The main impact is that they are in the vulnerable group that we are all trying to protect. Members normally come to the center to eat when we open, so us being closed has impacted nutritious meals for them. Many are not comfortable going to the store, so we are shopping for them. Many items are hard to find so they again are looking for our assistance and we are happy to provide that to them.”

Ms. Crouse said just don’t call it charity work.

“Through the help of a grant from CenDel Foundation, community churches and individuals, we have started a small food pantry here at the (Harrington Senior) Center,” she said. “Our seniors are very proud and our helping them is not considered charity to them, as we are family to them helping each other out during this situation. We love our members and are preparing to have them back in a safe and healthy environment when given the green light to do so.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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