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Helping Hands: May 8, 2020

Editor’s Note: Helping Hands is a weekly column to connect individuals and organizations in need with members of the community able to lend a hand in this time of crisis. The column draws on reporting for our online State of the Town weekday bulletin. We’re publishing the information here for the benefit of readers of our print edition.


Loaves & Fishes food pantry in Devens, which serves Ayer, Devens, Dunstable, Groton, Harvard, Littleton, and Shirley, is open for drive-thru pickups only. Over the next month, drive-thru service is available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on May 8, 13, 16, 20, 22, 27, and 29. 

Clients can visit the drive-thru service twice a month. All new clients must complete a phone intake and should call 978-772-4627, extension 312, to leave a message with contact information.

Any Harvard resident (senior or not) who is a Loaves & Fishes client can call the Council on Aging at 978-456-4120 and ask for the COA van to deliver their order. Anyone who is ill or has been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19 must send someone else to pick up their groceries. 

The pantry is in critical need of monetary donations to keep the shelves stocked. Donations of food or other supplies are not currently being accepted because of the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Monetary donations can be made online at loaves fishespantry.org/donate-now, or by mailing a check to Loaves & Fishes, P.O. Box 1, Ayer, MA 01432.

Volunteers in less vulnerable age groups are needed (must be at least 18 years old) to stock shelves on Tuesday afternoons, unload trucks early in the week, or help during drive-thru pickups (see schedule above). If you can help, email volunteer@loavesfish espantry.org with the days and times you are available. All volunteers must wear a mask and gloves.

Box trucks and drivers are also needed to take turns doing the weekly pickup of 15,000 pounds of food at the Greater Boston Food Bank on Monday or Tuesday morning or early afternoon. If you can help or know someone who can, contact foodcoord inator@loavesfishespantry.org.

The Harvard Council on Aging will be offering free “grab and go” dinners for seniors on Thursdays at 2 p.m. during the month of May, thanks to a state grant. Meals must be ordered by 3 p.m. Tuesday. Two meals per person will be packed for reheating in microwavable containers, and will be distributed at Hildreth House. People picking up meals must wear a mask and stay in their cars; meals will be deposited in the back seat. A list of sample meals is in the May newsletter, but callers will not be able to choose their meals. If you are unable to drive to Hildreth House to pick up a meal, let the COA know. For more information and to sign up, call the COA at 978-456-4120 during regular business hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

Council on Aging (COA) Director Debbie Thompson told the Press that the council has seen an increase in requests for masks over the past week. While there are still some available, “we can always use more.” Over 200 masks have been distributed so far to older residents. Any senior who would like a mask can contact the COA, and it will be available for pickup or drop-off. 

Thompson said the Adopt-a-Senior program is working well, and she currently has enough volunteers. Seniors who would like to be matched with a volunteer who will check in with them regularly, make trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, or provide other assistance, should contact the COA at 978-456-4120. Note that volunteers try to consolidate trips to limit their own risk, so they may not be able to go to a specific grocery store.

Emerson Hospital is accepting monetary contributions as well as supplies such as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. A full list of what is needed is available on the “How You Can Help” page of Emerson’s website at www.emersonhospital.org/coronavirus-covid-19-resources/covid-19-help. The hospital currently has enough homemade masks and face shields.

Due to the pandemic, this year’s annual 5k Run~Walk for Cancer Care will be virtual. The event is an important fundraiser for the hospital “because cancer never stops, even during a pandemic.” The event will take place May 11 through May 25 and can be completed anywhere that is safe to walk or run, including in your yard or on a treadmill. All proceeds go directly to support patients who receive cancer care at Emerson Hospital. To register and for more information, go to https://www.emersonhospital.org/articles/2020-virtual-5k-run-walk-announcement.

Nextdoor Harvard has a Help Map feature, which allows residents to sign up to help neighbors or to get help from a neighbor who has signed up. The Help Map appears on computer browsers on the Nextdoor homepage in a box to the right of the main column. On the Nextdoor mobile app or in a mobile browser, it will be a choice in the “More” selection of the main dropdown window.

—Compiled by Joan Eliyesil and the staff of the Harvard Press

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