Stepping up for seniors: CHEER teams with USDA to distribute food

Flanked by CHEER facilities director John Argo, CHEER human resource director Sandy Baynard holds a sign of appreciation for the volunteers that assisted in Saturday’s mega-food distribution in partnership with the USDA. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

GEORGETOWN — Got milk?

There was an ample supply of “moo” juice and a lot of helping hands on hand Saturday as CHEER Inc. teamed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide supplemental nutritional items to several hundred CHEER senior clients hunkered down during the coronavirus crisis.

Three hundred large food boxes were filled with assorted fresh produce, pork products, cheese products and half gallons of 2-percent milk.

CHEER, which serves thousands of seniors in Sussex County, was unofficially the first non-profit agency in Delaware to partner with the USDA in the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program, through which USDA is exercising authority under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

“As far as I know, we are,” said Katie Leister of CHEER.

Volunteers made direct deliveries to homes of 215 seniors throughout Sussex County. Those countywide deliveries encompassed 59 of CHEER’s Meals on Wheels routes, totaling approximately 985 miles, according to CHEER spokeswoman Carolyn O’Neal.

Joann Conaway of Georgetown loads several half gallons of milk in the dairy brigade Saturday at CHEER’s food box distribution in partnership with USDA.

Another 85 food boxes were picked up by clients.

Each food box contained 5 pounds of hot dogs, a 10-pound ham, assorted fresh fruits and vegetables and several varieties of cheese products, plus milk. Extra milk was available to clients.

Initial discussion in planning for the event included the possibility of 1,000 food boxes.

“But with a lot of older people, we didn’t know if they (senior clients) had room and could manage a big ham or five pounds of hot dogs. So we kind of scaled it back a little bit,” said Ms. Leister. “We originally had talked about doing enough for 1,000. That amount of food seemed daunting, so we kind of scaled back with 300. It ended up working just fine.”

On hand to assist CHEER staff, elected officials and volunteers was a platoon of State Farm Insurance agents, who recently spearheaded a monetary drive that was matched by State Farm. Combined, that netted $19,000 in support of CHEER’s “Meals on Wheels program and everything that they do help our seniors,” said State Farm agent Jeanine O’Donnell.

Leolga Wright hands an extra half quart of milk during the USDA food distribution event.

“We just have such a great group that loves to take care of people, so we wanted to kind of put action behind our funds and get out here and help the community as much as we can,” said State Farm agent Kim Benton.

Ms. Benton said State Farm’s company slogan — “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” — is more than just a jingle.

“We like to be out in the community helping our neighbors, and not just our customers,” said Ms. Benton. “We wanted to give back to our community and help strengthen it any way we can.”

“We had a lot of muscle,” said Ms. O’Donnell.

Delivery to homes of seniors followed COVID-19 pandemic protocol. Food boxes were placed at the door with social distancing.

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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