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The Niagara Falls COVID-19 Task Force and several other local agencies are handing out goodie bags chock full of Christmas crafts and information about COVID-19 to seniors at Wrobel and Spallino towers. The task force has been looking to address senior isolation, since they are one of several groups of people at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19.

Baggies have masks, hand sanitizer, information about remaining safe from COVID-19 and Christmas treats. In addition, the Niagara Falls Housing Authority has identified 40 individuals who are the most isolated people in the two buildings because they don’t receive family visits often and navigate the pandemic without extended family members. Dr. Rolanda Ward, the director of the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equality and Mission at Niagara University, said those people will have some more stuff in their bags to keep them from feeling isolated.

“If people can’t get out, than what can we do (so they) know they are thought about? Because sometimes you need to provide a little bit of hope. Even if we can’t do it by sitting in a room talking to the senior citizens. ... We’re going to continue this throughout the remainder of the pandemic, providing this level of outreach for the seniors in the towers.”

Ward said the work has gone well so far and partners with the group have been helpful. The surging COVID-19 numbers has meant people are unable to use the community rooms in both towers. She said this is the first outreach effort being done in the towers.

Ward added that efforts have been made in the city to walk through some of the zip codes in the communities with the highest COVID-19 numbers in order to get people masks and hand sanitizer. People have been receptive to this since the it began in August.

The group is also hoping to assist in getting word out on plans for vaccine distribution.

“We have to wait for the county’s plan, we’re going to take our lead from the county,” Ward said. In the baggies, though, we are encouraging them to make contact with their doctors about annual checkups because one of the things that we learned is that annual check ups are significantly low this year. People are not following through. Once the county comes out with the vaccination plan, then we’re going to continue to do our education and outreach to our most vulnerable citizens of Niagara Falls.”

The partners working with the task force include Niagara University; the YWCA; Mount St. Mary’s Hospital; Heart, Love and Soul of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope.

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