How PACE is helping Fresno County seniors survive the COVID-19 outbreak

From delivering groceries, meals, and even messages, to helping with activities, the PACE program is going above and beyond to provide potentially lifesaving services to Valley seniors.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A potentially lifesaving delivery is arriving at hundreds of Fresno County homes this week.

When the green PACE van pulls into the Summerset Village apartment complex, it's usually there to pick people up and drive them into downtown Fresno.

But this week, the vans are making deliveries instead.

PACE provides health care for more than 800 senior citizens.

The halls of their clinic are mostly empty, but doctors are still helping participants remotely during the coronavirus closure.

"When we shut the center down, we knew that there was going to be need, that our participants were still going to need access to certain resources," said PACE director of business development Steven Seita.

PACE also helps seniors with a couple of meals a day and activities.

They've converted the activity center into a production line for food deliveries now, but they're also delivering messages - from staff members on postcards or on the grocery bags themselves, in addition to regular phone calls.

"Now that they can't come in, we're doing wellness calls to make sure they're touched two to three times a week," said PACE VP of operations Sharon Melancon. "We make sure we send activities packages home to them to make sure they're not just sitting home and being isolated."

The deliveries started when those phone calls revealed a need for things like toilet paper and cleaning products.

They've expanded to groceries now, sending water, meat, canned food, and fresh vegetables to elderly people who might otherwise go hungry.

"I believe they would and I can tell you anecdotally I went on a couple of these deliveries Tuesday, delivering some of these groceries directly to the participants and I was really overwhelmed at the response I got," Seita said. "I was expecting mostly joy and gratitude. I was surprised at the level of relief that I got."

One couple said the food will help them avoid the grocery store for several days.

They're already planning to barbecue some Hmong sausage and make a chicken soup.

"I'm happy that we're getting help and someone is caring, watching over us, taking care of us," Kim Hipexuth said through an interpreter.

PACE administrators say they're ready to make at least one more grocery delivery if they still can't reopen next month.

They'll keep sending care packages as long as they have to stay closed.
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