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Volunteers 'overwhelm' Sauk County organization
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Volunteers 'overwhelm' Sauk County organization

At about 11 a.m. on March 17, the Sauk County Aging and Disability Resource Center sent out a plea on the emergency message system Nixle: “ADRC is looking for volunteers who are willing to deliver meals to residents that cannot get out of their home.”

Within an hour, Director Susan Blodgett said 40 people were contacting the office, willing to offer their time. Staff members were “inundated and overwhelmed with everyone’s generosity,” she said.

“It’s just been fantastic,” Blodgett said of people who seemed enthusiastic to provide support.

The call for help came on the heels of a global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus COVID-19. With many of their regular volunteers hampered by fears of falling ill themselves or needing to stay home to watch children no longer attending school because of mandated closures, they needed new people to fill in the gaps.

As of Tuesday, the department had more than 100 interested volunteers, likely more than they need, Aging Program Coordinator Marina Wittmann said.

“The response was overwhelming and we’re still calling people back,” Wittmann said. “People are willing to help and it’s just, it’s great.”

Kathy Kienow of Baraboo is retired. She started driving deliveries once a week about four years ago. Since concerns over the spread of COVID-19 began, Kienow increased to multiple times per week. Being kept inside has motivated her to give even more of her time.

“I’m not a sitter,” Kienow said. “I’ve got to get out of the house.”

That insight of being stuck in her house, calling friends and hearing their low mood in the face of being unable to socialize, has shown her what people who are homebound may experience daily.

“Because of this, I can see what the older people go through every day,” Kienow said. “If they have nobody come to their house, we’ve been told before, we’re the only person sometimes they see. And I can see why.”

Baraboo Community Service Officer John Statz has been helping deliver meals as well. In the past, he has brought homebound residents food through Meals on Wheels. He noted Tuesday as he was loading bags into his police utility van that volunteers can see the importance of their work firsthand when they spend time helping others.

ADRC delivers both hot meals and frozen ones, Blodgett said. Volunteers deliver Monday through Friday. Hot meals go out to residents of Baraboo, Reedsburg and the Sauk City area. Frozen meals go out once a week, with different recipients getting deliveries on different days, depending on their location. There are five frozen meals and five “shelf-stable” meals, Blodgett said.

Kienow has had to adjust the way she delivers food to residents because of concerns over COVID-19. Recipients are told to place a chair or another item outside their door. Deliverers can place the bag of meals on the chair for the residents to pick up, reducing human contact and the chance of viral contamination.

If the recipient is unable to leave their home due to a physical limitation, those dropping off the meals instead place them on a chair or similar items directly inside the door of their home.

As COVID-19 concerns continue, Blodgett said the ADRC will do its best to provide services residents need. Its dining rooms may be closed, but staff are still working.

“We can do a lot of things over the phone,” Blodgett said. “We’re still open, we’re just trying to adjust our services to meet the community where it needs.”

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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