As a result of recent heat waves in the community, many senior citizens have faced challenges going outside. Among these citizens is Bonnie Steiskal, a senior citizen who currently lives in Graham, suffering from lymphedema, and psoriatic arthritis, among other after-effects of radiation from skin cancer.
Due to previously having various forms of skin cancers, Steiskal burns more easily and “has to be extremely careful” when going outside. “I think as you get older, the heat becomes a bigger problem, and so you have to be a little more careful,” she added.
According to Commissioner Pamela Thompson, many seniors have been struggling throughout the season due to having to choose between certain necessities such as air conditioning, medication, and sometimes food. Thompson added that the heat can be especially dangerous to citizens suffering from COPD, asthma, or other lung-related disorders.
A few years ago, Thompson reached out to multiple people and utilized resources, including the Alamance County Aging Services Planning Committee to organize a fan drive. Thompson was able to collaborate with Alamance County Meals on Wheels, an organization that has been hosting the fan drive annually since then due to the increased temperatures over the summer.
This year, the organization was able to raise approximately 100 fans with the help of other members of the community.
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Alamance County Meals on Wheels is a social services organization located in Burlington, NC that provides meal deliveries to citizens who are medically frail and/or homebound at an affordable price. Formed in 1973, this organization has provided meals and hosted several initiatives to benefit elderly members of the community.
Since the pandemic started, Thompson added that approximately 300 people were put on the Meals on Wheels program due to the extra money the organization received to support them.
Steiskal stated that the pandemic has affected her in many ways, including “the cost of living, the cost of food, the cost of meds, and even the cost of doctors in regard to co-pays.” Although she’s an Illinois native, Steiskal moved to North Carolina following the passing of her younger sister to be closer to family.
She had to sell her car to move because the cost of fuel went up, and is currently living in a house that “virtually has no furniture,” in her words. The moving company would charge Steiskal close to a thousand dollars to commute her furniture from Ella to Graham from Illinois, which she cannot afford right now.
Therefore, Steiskal’s granddaughter has stepped up to commute her to doctor’s appointments. However, her granddaughter had to take on a second job in order to be able to assist. This has helped Steiskal though, despite her limited mobility.
In order to help other residents in similar predicaments, Thompson requested to host another fan drive through the Alamance County Meals on Wheels organization. She made a post on Facebook requesting fans from the community, which prompted a response from certain community members, including Walter Webster, a local Sunday school teacher.
Webster recalled Thompson’s efforts from last year and was eager to help, also recruiting students from his Sunday school class. He stated that his students immediately agreed and “stepped up to the need,” yielding big results for the fan drive.
“We have a contingency fund in our class,” Webster stated, that the Brothers and Sisters in Christ’s Service (BASICS) class uses to contribute to efforts such as the Meals on Wheels fan drive. The BASICS organization “led the way” and purchased 20 fans through this contingency fund to kickstart the drive, I added.
The fan that Steiskal received through the organization’s fan drive this year has helped her to sleep more comfortably at night. Therefore, she considers the fan and the Alamance County Meals on Wheels organization to be “a big blessing.”
“Besides the meals, there have been times where they’ve brought extra food,” she added, providing extra groceries for her to stock in the one cabinet where she contains most of her food.
“The people who do this and deliver the meals…they make it possible,” she said, regarding the Alamance County Meals on Wheels volunteers. “If they didn’t volunteer to do this, we wouldn’t have this,” she added.
Although no other organizations assisted in the fan drive, Thompson stated that many private citizens made contributions to the effort. A lot of people who helped donate fans in previous years helped provide fans again or raise money, and the BASICS class of about 60 students was very involved in promoting the drive within the community.
The efforts helped Alamance County Meals on Wheels to raise about 100 fans in two and a half weeks. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Thompson.