Although many people and groups in our communities have been unfortunately impacted by the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one group that has been in special need of our attention. Many homebound seniors in Northwest Indiana were left without company, food, and other basic necessities when social distancing and staying home to protect the most vulnerable was enacted. This is where StoryPoint Chesterton’s quest began.
About a month into the pandemic, StoryPoint Chesterton Community Specialist Jeannie Nowarita began to realize that there are seniors living in the area who are alone without food or the company of a friend. She combined her love for supporting small businesses with this growing need to support seniors in dire conditions outside of StoryPoint Chesterton’s walls and came up with a plan.
“I’m very good friends with Nicole Caylor, the owner of Running Vines Winery, and she and I were talking about the pandemic and just how it was affecting not only seniors, but also small business owners,” said Nowarita. “She had told me that they were offering delivery of their food, and they had just gotten approval to also do delivery of their wine, so we decided to use their service to deliver to our prospective residents and seniors in the community that needed a pick-me-up.”
Not only was Running Vines Winery a great fit for StoryPoint Chesterton’s plan to help seniors, but their delicious food and beverages were the perfect way to give people a tasty meal that they haven’t been able to enjoy in a long time. The delivery team, which mainly consisted of Nowarita and StoryPoint Chesterton’s Associate Community Specialist Celine Certa, brought two flatbread pizzas and a bottle of wine from the winery every week.
In addition to Running Vines Winery, StoryPoint Chesterton was also able to enlist help from Chesterton Brewery who joined in the meal delivery service, offering their tasty menu as well.
Once the local businesses stopped their delivery options, StoryPoint Chesterton decided to keep the momentum going and continue delivering meals made by their own chef.
“We wanted to keep going, and our culinary department is amazing, so we said, ‘Let’s start delivering our food,’ and that’s what we did,” said Nowarita. “We just kind of transitioned over to doing dinner for two. They would get an appetizer or salad, an entree, and a dessert from us.”
For Nowarita, knowing these deserving seniors had their meals covered for at least a day or two of the week was comforting, especially when some seniors were eating something as small as a can of black beans for dinner because that is all they had. The nutritious meals were made fresh, in-house at the StoryPoint Chesterton kitchen, and it made seniors feel excited to have something flavorful. But what made it even more impactful was seeing the gratitude and cheer in the faces of those they were helping.
“I’m telling you, the reaction of people, even if they will never move in with us, it was such a joy to see how excited they were and how blessed they felt. They were just so happy to get this little pick-me-up,” said Nowarita. “To be able to provide them a nutritious, home-cooked meal that they didn’t have to worry about, that was a huge blessing.”
Although it wasn’t their intention, StoryPoint Chesterton has been grateful to see some seniors who appreciated the service throughout the pandemic decide to join the community and become residents. The benefits of no-stress living and quality care from people like Nowarita and Certa definitely made them feel comforted.
Offering these seniors the reminder that they are loved and cared for, even while the world around them may feel like it is falling apart, demonstrates how meaningful this meal delivery project really is. For Nowarita, it offers her another chance to connect with the individuals that she may not see on a day-to-day basis, even before the pandemic.
“It gives us another opportunity to connect with these seniors. A lot of them aren’t having that human connection, or they barely have it, so it’s been such a joy for them,” said Nowarita. “Sometimes we bring them a sunshine bag where there will be gifts like a gratitude journal or different StoryPoint swag items, or we even brought playing cards to people, that was really awesome, just small things for them to do to stay entertained.”
On top of small pick-me-ups like puzzles and cards, StoryPoint Chesterton was also able to add delivering groceries to their list. When things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer were in short supply, the team was able to bring those to the seniors to provide them with the necessities to make life a little easier.
Thankfully, StoryPoint Chesterton has successfully continued their delivery service non-stop since they began, often transitioning back and forth between methods like drive-up delivery, drive-thru pick-ups, or even drive-by drop offs, depending on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines at the time.
Even more impressive, the senior care facility has not had a single resident or staff member test positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Nowarita emphasized how proud she is to work for a community that has prioritized the health and well-being of both seniors and team members since the very beginning.
“We are still COVID-19 free in our building since day one. It is amazing,” said Nowarita. “I mean, I don’t know how we did it, but I am telling you I am so grateful that we did. Our team just works so hard to make sure that our residents are safe and that they themselves are safe. We try to make good decisions, not only in the building, but outside of the building as a team.”
With the number of vaccinated individuals and vaccines becoming available increasing each day, Nowarita’s hope for the near future is only growing.
“Now we’re at a place where almost everybody has been vaccinated in our building, both staff and residents, which is fantastic,” said Nowarita.
As Nowarita and her hard-working coworkers continue to step out into the community to deliver meals to residents in need and offer a bright spot in their day, she wants to encourage anyone who knows of a senior who may benefit from this service to reach out to StoryPoint Chesterton.
“If anybody reading the article has a senior that they know of that is struggling and could really use a meal delivery or a drive-up meal or whatever, we would love to help them,” said Nowarita. “We go all over Northwest Indiana, and we just want to be there and support people right now. We are here for seniors, we want to keep them safe and healthy, so please reach out if you know someone who would use a meal delivery or anything else, we are happy to help.”
To learn more about StoryPoint Chesterton and to contact their team for information on the meal delivery service, head to their website at www.storypoint.com/community/chesterton-in/.