WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ As efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus continue, those who are the most at risk of infection — like our senior citizens — are looking to their communities for help.
In an effort to keep them safe, a local organization is rolling out a new program.
Westbay Community Action President and CEO Paul Salera said the organization has been around for more than 50 years.
“We provide basic needs and services,” he said. “Everything from WIC to elder case management and child care, adult education, and heating assistance to the residents of Kent County.”
The organization caters to the Warwick, West Warwick and East Greenwich communities. Its pantry provides food and other necessities on a daily basis, and new this week, it’s distributing ready-to-go meals.
“We’re working in coordination with Office of Healthy Aging, Pilgrim Senior Center, and the city of Warwick to provide meal replacements to the elderly and vulnerable populations within Warwick,” Salera said.
Both curbside pickup and at-home delivery options are available for those in Kent County, according to Salera, and Westbay is there to help people with anything they need.
“Especially right now with the food and the elderly and the vulnerable populations are being told to stay home,” Salera said. “We’re going to try and accommodate that to the best of our ability by providing the food delivered to them at their front door.”
“Not only will we be able to deliver the meal replacements, but we’ll also be able to deliver some of the emergency food that we have within the program itself,” he added.
Salera said they’re hoping to send out three meals a day per person, and they’ve also just applied to the COVID-19 Response Fund set up by the Rhode Island Foundation and United Way of Rhode Island.
“We’re hoping to get some gift certificates that we could also provide to these families and these elders,” he said. “If they want to go to Stop & Shop or Shaw’s, they could also worry about not taking money out of their pocket. We’re here to assist.”
In addition to the ready-to-go meals, Salera said Westbay has 1,100 MREs to give out as well.
“Those are the ‘meal replacement rations.’ They’re the ration bags, the same ones used for the military,” he explained, adding there are different types available for residents with different dietary needs.
Salera also noted that Westbay is part of a community action network that’s looking for both donations and volunteers.
“There’s seven of us from Woonsocket all the way down to Wakefield,” he said. “We cover all 39 cities and and towns in the state. We all have operational food pantries, so any type of food would be great. Money is even better because we can get gift cards and we can really help those elderly that need specialized diets.”
Salera said senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems who need help should call Westbay at (401) 732-4660 ext. 138, leave a message providing a name, and a staff member will call back. Residents can also contact Pilgrim Senior Center at (401) 468-4073.
Curbside pickup for the read-to-go meals begins Friday, March 27, and the hours of operation are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at their new location: 487 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick. Patrons are asked to drive to the back entrance and wait in the car, where a staff member will provide assistance. Pickup for the emergency food begins on Monday, March 30.
Seniors and those who are immunocompromised who live outside of Kent County are advised to call 211 or visit ricommunityaction.org to learn about the community action programs in their area.
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