Senior Services steps up during pandemic
June 11, 2020
Taking on a new job is always a challenge, but for Jenna Ellsbury, that experience was magnified by the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic arrived almost immediately after she became the director of Crook County Senior Services. Speaking to the county commissioners last week, however, she was able to share the many things her program has done to support local seniors throughout the crisis.
The pandemic has been advantageous in one way, Ellsbury began: it has made more people aware of the county’s seniors and their needs. Senior Services has adjusted a lot during the crisis, she said; for example, a lot of people don’t have family for grocery pickups, so staff and volunteers have been doing that for them free of charge.
Meanwhile, Senior Services has made sure meals are delivered to those who need them, Ellsbury said. She offered a reminder that anyone is welcome to come to the centers once they reopen to enjoy a reasonably priced lunch – not just welcome, but encouraged, as the more people who come through the doors, the more state money can be obtained for the people who need it.
The homemaking program has excelled during this time, Ellsbury said. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable cleaning their parent’s house, so Senior Services has been taking care of that.
Traveling healthcare has continued throughout, she continued, and Senior Services has made sure nobody has missed an appointment. This has allowed seniors to continue receiving needed care in the form of such things as infusions and physical therapy.
Staff have also made sure to jump through all necessary hoops to protect people’s health while offering this service, Ellsbury said. This includes wearing gloves, staying out of the building and more.
Senior Services also acts as an information hub and helps people access assistance. For example, Ellsbury described being contacted recently with problems such as inability to make rent, inability to pay for internet services, issues paying for pet food and the need for an exterminator. There are unique services in this state such as Wyoming Independent Living, she said, and Senior Services can act as a conduit between local seniors and this assistance.
Whatever a senior needs, in other words, Crook County Senior Services does its best to step up.
“They call us, we find it. Even if it requires me going on Facebook and asking for donations, we find it,” Ellsbury said, later adding, “Our nonprofit was started to keep people out of institutions, that is our job.”
Commissioner Jeanne Whalen asked Ellsbury to explain why Senior Services hosts a yard sale fundraiser when it now receives a mill levy. Ellsbury responded that the more money is available, the more Senior Services can do; for example, she would like to get a part-time homemaker for Hulett and a part-time driver.
“The mill levy money, in my mind, doesn’t go to programs. It goes to match the grants that fund the programs,” she explained.
The grants available to Senior Services are very specific, said Ellsbury, and can only be spent on a limited amount of things. Fundraisers fill the holes those grants can’t cover; for example, a donation from Sundance State Bank is currently being used to help people who couldn’t cover their bills during the pandemic.
It’s about stretching the dollars, Ellsbury said. This is particularly important because, with state finances in question, she is expecting major budget cuts.
On that basis, Ellsbury stated that she is accepting almost any items as donations towards the yard sale during business hours at the office on Main Street.
Ellsbury will also be putting together a volunteer network across the county for those who would like to help seniors with such things as mowing, repairs and snow removal.