CHATHAM, NJ - They say the people most at risk for the coronavirus are those with comprised immune systems, those undergoing chemotherapy and those of the elderly. For the third group in Chatham Borough and Township, it’s important to stay home and keep social distancing.

However, for many senior citizens, this makes doing regular things quite difficult. Yet luckily for them, there is an organization that has been acting as a guardian angel for the elderly. This is the Senior Center of the Chathams (SCC), which has been physically closed since mid-March.

SCC is an independent, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that since 1990 has encouraged the independence and well-being of Chatham senior citizens and their families by connecting them with each other and the local community. The center has provided a wide array of activities, programs, and services that educate, empower and promote community engagement.

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This community engagement during the COVID-19 crisis includes volunteers making check-in calls, going grocery shopping, and picking up prescriptions for all senior clients.

“The willingness of people in Chatham to volunteer has been really wonderful to experience,” said Julie Reich, SCC executive director.

“We’ve focused on ensuring seniors are doing all right in their homes and that they’re getting the community resources and assistance they need, and we’ll continue to do that. We also know the tremendous value of social connection especially during this stay-at-home order when older adults can get lonely or feel very isolated. In fact, our mission is to help older adults remain active and stay connected. Right now, we’re working on getting seniors re-connected with each other and the Center through remote access programs. We’ll be making programs available soon starting with those that foster social connection and emotional support. We’ll expand from there as our planning continues. Dates and videoconferencing and dial-in details will be posted on our social media pages and website.”

As of now, the SCC leads a group of 65 staff and volunteers, calling more than 2,000 Chatham seniors over the age of 65 and letting them know the center is here to assist them during this virus situation.

Volunteers have made 75 shopping trips for over 45 households. The numbers continued to increase as more calls come in every day. The center has also received calls from relatives of their senior clients, wishing to know if their loved ones are well and healthy. Volunteers, such as Chatham resident Nancy Bloom, are happy to lend their assistance to their senior citizens.

“I can honestly say it’s a ‘win-win’ situation,” said Bloom. “The opportunity to help others is very rewarding, especially in these times of such constraint. I feel fortunate that I am in a position to help.”

And the senior citizens of the Chathams feel very fortunate to receive the help they get from the center.

“My family lives in California and I had no one to ask for help,” said an anonymous 81-year old Chatham senior who lives alone but received frequent help by the center. “Having to go into the stores for my groceries was becoming very difficult. I heard about the senior center’s volunteer shopping service from a neighbor and called immediately. They took my information and I was connected to a lovely young volunteer who called me for my order and delivered it that same day.

"She has continued to show such kindness and calls me every week to ask if I need more supplies. This wonderful service and support have helped to calm my fears and provide a bright friendly light during these very dark and lonely days. I can’t thank the senior center enough for providing this much-needed service.”

And as the SCC keeps providing this much needed service, even as the COVID-19 crisis changes things day-to-day.

“The situation with COVID-19 evolves every day,” Reich said. “We’ve been working closely with the Chatham Township and Borough mayors, administrators, police departments, and health departments to stay up-to-date on the latest developments on the virus and identify seniors who may be in need of help. We’re very pleased The Senior Center of the Chathams can be of assistance right now.”

To learn more about the Senior Center of the Chathams, visit their website at https://chathamseniorcenter.org/.