POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – An organization that helps people at the highest risk if infected by COVID-19 is working to limit exposure and continue vital services to the community.
Volunteers In Service to the Elderly, or VISTE, serves 4,200 seniors in western Polk County. The seniors, aged 70 – 106, receive home-delivered meals, groceries and transportation to appointments, among other services.
“We are solely focused on the most at-risk population right now and we are very much in need of continued support to make sure that we can continue to serve their needs,” said Steve Bissonnette, VISTE President.
Bissonnette has made small changes aimed at keeping his elderly clients and volunteers healthy.
He has reverted to using Styrofoam containers instead of reusable ones for the hot meals, temporarily stopped allowing clients to pick items off of shelves and includes pamphlets in each delivery container with information on coronavirus.
Bissonnette is re-prioritizing when his drivers will transport patients. Recurring appointments, including dialysis and chemotherapy, will take priority.
With schools closed, Bissonnette has heard from many groups that want to come in and help.
“It’s not a good time for us to bring a lot of groups in here because many of our volunteers are at risk so we want to protect that environment as much as possible,” he said.
A handful of volunteers, all seniors, were sorting groceries Monday morning.
“If we don’t do this, some people are gonna go without food,” said Danny Tindall, Ed.D, a volunteer. “We want to make sure, especially those that are in homes that can’t get out, that we’re able to minister to them and bring them what they need.”
While sticking to their mission to help their fellow seniors, they are taking precautions.
“This is a small group here, we’re not a lot of people. So we’re able to function very very well and keep certain distances,” said Tindall.
Bissonnette expects volunteers to, understandably, opt to stay home. He will need drivers.
“We need volunteers to help transport primarily food, either the hot meals that we do twice a week or groceries that we do once a month,” said Bissonnette.
Bissonnette also suggests serving the elderly in your own community by just checking in on your neighbors, see if they need anything or just want to talk.
If you would like to learn more about how to volunteer or donate to VISTE, visit https://viste.org/.