Today we are delighted to share our interview with Deanna Jones, executive director of The Thompson Senior Center.
*If you're just finding our "Staying at Home in Woodstock" series, welcome! During the COVID-19 crisis, we are connecting with local businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profits to help encourage and support one another through this difficult time. Please contact us directly if you would like to be featured!*
Who are you and where do you live?
Deanna Jones. I live on 26 beautiful acres in Pomfret with my husband, Rob, and our four children, ages 4 -16. We have been here for 19 years.
What do you do? For how long have you been doing it?
I’m lucky to have my dream job as the executive director of The Thompson Senior Center in Woodstock. We make sure older community members have the resources they need to age well at home -- whether that means home-delivered Meals on Wheels, wellness classes, transportation, fun activities, life-long learning opportunities, medical equipment after surgery, or referrals to vetted service providers. I’ve been at The Thompson for almost 10 years and love the staff and the connections we have with our older community members.
How has your life and livelihood changed in the time of Covid-19?
It feels like all normal life was paused and all of our energy was immediately shifted to providing meals and keeping our older Vermonters safe from exposure to Covid-19. Normally, a big part of our energy is focused on keeping people from being socially isolated and the risks associated with isolation. This isolation is the opposite of what we usually want for our older community members but is now a necessity. It is not a shift that we like, but I’m super happy about The Thompson staff’s flexibility in serving our community together. We’re having many phone visits with our patrons, delivering groceries, working with community emergency teams and volunteers, providing many more home-delivered meals, giving out puzzles/books and donated newspapers, and hosting some online classes too. We’re a group that makes the most of things. My personal life has changed with 4 children at home, but I’m thankful that both my husband and I have “essential” jobs that we can juggle time and be at home on alternate days. The teachers and school programs have been well-organized, and our children are all adjusting to the changes pretty well (especially our dog).
What is the most important thing that people can do to help support you and/or your business?
We’ve received a huge outpouring of love and support over the past month. Younger community members have stepped forward to deliver Meals on Wheels so that our older volunteers could be given this time off (only three of thirty of our previous Meals on Wheels volunteers were under age 75). We have people volunteering to shop for groceries and even have received donated eggs from Pete and Gerry’s and other farm donations, too. We’ve received homemade mask donations and financial support that are keeping us safe and going strong. As this situation drags on, we really appreciate the continued financial support – not only are our expenses higher with more packaging, food, and gloves, but we’re not able to do our normal fundraising events, like dinner programs, that help support our operations throughout the year. (Readers may VOLUNTEER or DONATE through the Thompson's website.)
What changes do you hope to see in a post-quarantine world?
I hope to see:
- Community connections continue, and younger people continuing to deliver Meals on Wheels along with older people,
- Emergency plans in place and improved for future situations,
- Recognition and celebration of the impact that our older community members have on our communities, and
- Recognition throughout the state and nationally that Senior Centers are an essential service. Currently, senior centers in Vermont and many states do not receive any state or federal funding for administration or operations except for a limited amount per meal (1/3 the cost of the meals), but research shows that senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction, and life satisfaction. I hope after all this, it is more broadly recognized what a thriving, well-supported senior center can accomplish and contribute to their community.