BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors (LSHS) is a nonprofit that helps seniors live their most healthy and independent lives, following the “Living at Home / Block Nurse” model. It is one of three such programs in Minneapolis, the other two being Nokomis Healthy Seniors and Southeast Seniors. LSHS was founded in 1994, and has been headed by Executive Director Mary Albrecht since 2005. Its service area officially comprises Seward, Longfellow, Cooper, Howe and Hiawatha neighborhoods, but they also provide services in Cedar-Riverside and Ventura Village. The staff in addition to Albrecht includes Volunteer Coordinator Julia Ockuly, a program assistant and a community nurse, plus a large (and hopefully growing) contingent of volunteers.
LSHS also participates in a coalition project called Community Connect, partnering with Little Brothers / Friends of the Elderly, Longfellow Community Council and Meals on Wheels, among others.
Up until May 27, LSHS’s biggest problems were how to continue programming in what is normally a hands-on mission to combat senior isolation with the enforced physical isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the threatened funding cuts from the county and the city at the end of 2019.
Although funding cuts were mostly restored as 2020 rolled in with all its challenges, the economic slowdown resulting from COVID-19 and its stay-at-home orders have increased the needs for free food, transportation, caregiver respite, and many other LSHS core services. As you can see on their website (https://www.lshealthyseniors.org), all in-person events and services were canceled through the end of July at least, including Senior Social/Health Talk, Tai Chi exercise classes, Nurse Is In/Blood Pressure Clinics, and art classes.
Tai Chi participants were referred to a free program called Larkers in the Park. You can join this group on Meetup.com (https://www.meetup.com/Larkers) or follow them on Facebook, or watch them in action on this video:https://youtu.be/qZOKoa8yMYM.
On or about May 27, LSHS’s problems kicked up a notch. Their office was located in the U.S. Bank building at 2800 E. Lake Street. This building was broken into and looted repeatedly over four consecutive days and severely damaged by fire and water as well. Fortunately, someone was able to retrieve the desktop computers on the first day of rioting in the area, and no data breach or loss occurred, but other records, assets and furniture are probably a total loss.
A large piece of LSHS’s mission with senior clients is to assist with rides to shop or attend medical appointments. With many pharmacies, banks, grocery stores and other amenities closed due to fires and looting, the need for this, as well as simply for emergency food and personal hygiene and health supplies, increased enormously almost overnight.
Albrecht is temporarily sharing office space on University Avenue SE with Southeast Seniors, and other LSHS staff are working from home. They have a temporary mailing address where they can receive offline inquiries and, most crucially, donations by check: P.O. Box 17133, Minneapolis, MN 55417.
Albrecht, in an email interview, said:
“Longfellow/Seward Healthy Seniors provides many services to help area seniors live healthy, independent and socially connected lives. We serve 600+ seniors and caregivers annually. Right now, the biggest needs of our clients are getting groceries and prescriptions. Due to damage incurred from the rioting and looting, Target, Cub, Aldis and Walgreens are closed. Our neighborhood has suddenly become a food and pharmacy desert. Local seniors, many of whom don’t have their own transportation, are having a harder time getting groceries and prescriptions. Our staff and volunteers are doing grocery shopping and delivery for our clients, and are delivering food from local food shelves as well. We recently got a Hunger Solutions grant for food distribution and delivery to lower-income seniors. We plan on distributing perishable foods such as meat, dairy and fresh produce to eligible seniors soon.”
Albrecht said that their need is greater than ever for volunteers, a constant requirement, as well as for monetary support. They also have a temporary phone number you can call to volunteer or to ask for help, or just to check on what is needed: 763-458-0484. If you’re an online kind of person, use this handy volunteer form at www.lshealthyseniors.org/volunteer.html to fill in online, or download, print and fill out.
Albrecht also said, “Now, more than ever, we need the community’s support. We’re asking for financial support from individuals, organizations, businesses, churches and community groups. Donations can be sent to our temporary mailing address at P.O. Box 17133, Minneapolis, MN 55417 or by donating online through our website: LShealthyseniors.org (click the “Donate” tab).”
If you are a person over 65 who could use some help right now with transportation, food, other necessities, or just social-emotional support, reach out to LSHS. And if you can spare some money or some time, or know an organization that can, please consider volunteering, donating, or both.