Meal on Wheels, Grafton County

Adapting to meet a need

Upper Valley Senior Center Director Jill Vahey discusses adapting to the pandemic

The parking lot outside the Upper Valley Senior Center is a beehive of activity on this day. Clients wait in their cars in orderly rows for the “Grab and Go” meals. Once given the ok to roll forward, they are greeted by volunteers and staff who hand them meals, farm fresh vegetables, and slices of Watermelon (it turns out this day is National Watermelon Day) as they safely pass by. To one side of the parking lot, Roger, a former meals on wheels driver and current volunteer, is serenading the clients with an upbeat combination of country music tunes.

It’s festive to say the least!

In the middle of the hustle and bustle is Jill Vahey, Director of the Upper Valley Senior Center (part of GCSCC). Armed with a clipboard and a smile, she moves about the parking lot greeting clients, organizing staff and volunteers, and generally keeping things moving.

“The need for these services in this area is huge,” she says. “And with congregate dining closed due to the pandemic, the grab and go program is one way in which we’ve adapted.” She explained that while many former diners were among those picking up meals, the grab and go meals had attracted new clients. “We’re seeing some people that were not aware of Meals on Wheels or if they qualified,” she said.

Having served as Director of the Center for two decades, Jill clearly understands the role of the agency as a meeting place for meals and activities for older adults. “Our goal is to help support their needs and if needed, connect them to other services. COVID-19 has presented some challenges, especially for some who might find technology challenging, so we try to bridge that gap.” “With the grab and go, we can’t completely replicate the congregate dining environment, but we try to make it fun.” Based on the smiles and laughs from clients, they’re succeeding!