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Volunteers helping senior citizens weather the coronavirus storm

Martha's Table is continuing to deliver meals to seniors as individuals work to protect themselves from the virus.

WASHINGTON — As more coronavirus cases pop up in the DMV, officials continue to warn that older adults face the highest risk. Nonprofits are stepping up to help as senior citizens work to protect themselves.

“I haven’t thought a lot about it, but I just want to make sure I’ll be safe from it," said 87-year-old Lillie Baker.

Baker has lived in the Paul Laurence Dunbar Apartments for senior citizens for 20 years. After the novel coronavirus made it to DC, she said the apartment complex sent out a flyer Friday, alerting residents to extra precautions they were taking.

The letter said management was canceling community events, programs, and private events, and urged residents to help themselves.

“Be very vigilant as to who you are, your surroundings more or less, because you don’t know a lot of times, what people have when you’re around them," Baker said.

But, in the letter, management assured residents that needed services like meal delivery would still be provided. That's where Martha's Table comes in.

The volunteer turned Volunteer Engagement Manager for Martha's Table, Robbie Dealey, said they've been delivering upward of 300 meals to senior citizens at Paul Laurence Dunbar every week for longer than he's been alive.

“Martha’s Table has always fought food insecurity no matter who it affects, and so our senior population of course is some of our most vulnerable population," Dealey said.

He said they will continue to make sure seniors who can't leave their homes — and shouldn't per official recommendation — get meals — just in a slightly different way.

“We have modified some of our meal delivery services to a more prepackaged format, rather than serving an individual meal," Dealey said.

He said they will be delivering the meals door-to-door to limit exposure.

Staff has also taken extra precautions to keep themselves and their clients safe, he said. Dealey said they encourage common sense hygiene practices and have told volunteers to stay home if they're not feeling well.

Dealey said they are doing everything they can to protect the public while they serve them.

“Even if it’s just two chefs and myself, we’re going to lift those groceries until the broccoli’s gone," he said.

While Baker said she doesn't receive the meals from Martha's Table, she's glad that there's an option for her neighbors who do need it.

In terms of staying safe, she said knows she qualifies as high risk, but she's not going to let that scare her.

"I really don't focus on it that much, because everybody is responsible for keeping their own self safe," she said.

Credit: Martha's Table
Volunteers pack lunches at Martha's Table.

Dealey emphasized that anyone is welcome to receive a fresh bag of produce and pantry items at NO COST at either of their locations Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 He said they have always offered that program. They have recently expanded it in light of the coronavirus impact.

Martha's Table needs help to keep their services going. Dealey said they have seen a 40% reduction in volunteers since Monday, largely because college students were sent home.

He said they're looking for donations of food, money, and time.

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