By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — A new program is aimed to hit the ground running next month at the local library.
Wayland Free Library has been ushering in several new avenues since Covid 19 shut everything down in March. The library reinvented the wheel with several online programs to keep the patrons and community connected in these dark times.
Now they are going to head out to the most isolated of our citizens in this crisis that is still a dark cloud over our country.
Christine Towner, AmeriCorps Seniors Project coordinator and Jen Farr, Wayland Free Library director are teaming up to provide a new program called Words on Wheels.
Words on Wheels is a program financed by a grant that will help our senior citizens in the Wayland, Perkinsville, Springwater, Cohocton, and Atlanta areas feel a little less isolated. It is meant for anyone in the Wayland-Cohocton Central district that is 60 and older who has been isolated during the Covid 19. They are asking for volunteers who can be anyone 55 and older.
“We plan on providing books and other library materials to anyone in the Wayland-Cohocton Central school district that is of the age of 60 and older who has been isolated in this time. We will need volunteers for this. We will provide all of the materials and have our volunteers deliver them to the clients. The volunteers can be anyone 55 or older,” Farr said. “Our volunteers will be given a workshop training them on the proper techniques during Covid 19. They will get paid 40 cents a mile for mileage. They will be asked to deliver the materials to the clients and provide a conversation. It is like Meals on Wheels only with books.”
AmeriCorps Seniors is providing all the insurance and spearheading this project. Anyone interested in being part of the program can contact them. They will keep a survey of how the program is impacting the isolated citizens. They will manage the volunteers who are dedicating their time to serve our most vulnerable citizens at this time.
“Many people have been shut in due to illness or they are too scared to leave during this pandemic. Our volunteers will be the contact person for them. We have been trying to provide them with a phone conversation to let them know someone out there cares about them. They need to know they are not alone,” Farr said. “We are the first ones to do this program in the area. We hope to be a model for the other libraries. We have many great patrons and people in this community. People who don’t have cards, but would like to be part of the program can contact the library. We sadly cannot deliver outside of the school district at this time.”
The Wayland-Cohocton Central school district has plenty of isolated areas that would benefit from this program, Farr said.
Farr added that the Covid 19 Pandemic has been very hard on all the local libraries.
“We need to get people in the library again, but we want to be as safe as we can. This Words on Wheels Program will be a safe service for us. This is a challenge all the libraries face together; to provide a safe and good service for their community,” she said. “We will see if this program makes people feel less isolated and we encourage them all to talk to us. We can provide them with someone who cares about them. We can give them a friendly conversation.”
Towner believes there are many in the school district that will jump on this kind of program. Many who would love to volunteer and take part in the program itself.
“We will target our most vulnerable citizens who are feeling disconnected from the world right now. These individuals who feel isolated can have volunteers deliver library materials safely to their door.,” she said. “The volunteers will be asked to remain six feet away as they have a conversation with the client on the porch. These brief conversations and library materials will mean so much to someone who has been shut in for a long period of time.”
“The client will have a movie to watch or a few books to read. The Wayland-Cohocton Central school district has lots of rural communities that could have neighbors who are miles and miles away. There is no one there to go check on them. We need to recruit volunteers to bring them materials. We are working on enrolling volunteers and clients at the same time,” Towner continued. “We will keep track of everyone to make sure this program is really helping everyone. We are seeing a huge increase in depression since the Covid 19 in our senior citizens. These citizens are no longer able to connect with anyone. We are here at AmeriCorps Seniors trying to combat this issue.”
Towner added that the volunteers will be the same age as the clients so they can have a really meaningful conversation in 10 or 15 minutes on the porch. There are calls coming in all the time from retired individuals wanting to do something during this pandemic to giveback.
“It is a biological need to feel connected to other human beings. It puts a hardship on our most vulnerable population by keeping them shut in during this time. The Covid 19 is making this matter a lot worse in our senior citizens. We believe the Words on Wheels Program is a win win situation. Our volunteers will be able to get out and help the ones who need it the most. We are in the stages of development and hope to start this program in November.”
There are a few other programs in the works via AmeriCorps Seniors that anyone can be part of at this time. Care Callers will provide phone conversations and help with keeping everyone’s spirits up in this dark time. They have caregivers who can help provide care with anyone dealing with dementia. There are several other ways they can help provide service.
If interested in the program or becoming a volunteer contact Towner at 607-664-2298. For more information on AmeriCorps Seniors visit https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps For information and contact information on Wayland Free Library visit https://gunlockelibrary.org