Taking a Look at The Salvation Army Older Alaskans Program
Feeding Anchorage seniors in need
In December 2019, Uwe Schaetze started his role with The Salvation Army as the Older Alaskans Program (OAP) manager. Schaetze, originally from a small city in West Germany, has a military background in management and leadership. Schaetze and his family have been living in the United States for the past ten years and enjoy living in Alaska.
Prior to his start at OAP, Schaetze explained that he recognized a big need for a program like OAP. OAP meets the needs of seniors who do not have the ability to shop and make food for themselves daily. The program not only delivers food to clients, allowing them to continue living independently, but for many, the OAP meal delivery drivers are the only people they may see during the week.
The Salvation Army’s Older Alaskans Program provides daily meal delivery to seniors and individuals with disabilities 60 years and older in order to give them the opportunity to continue to live independently without the challenge of making daily meals. Clients receive hot meals delivered to their door during the weekdays and flash frozen meals for weekends and holidays.
“In December, I met a gentleman in his seventies that served in the Air Force for twenty-something years. I had gone on a delivery route with an employee and met this very sweet man. He lives in a very small efficiency and you could see his background is military by the organization and cleanliness of his space,” Schaetze explained. “When I spoke with this man, I could see his pain because he has family but receives no visitors. It hurt him that his family only visited him maybe a couple of times a year. It was surprising because the man was very sweet and enjoyed visiting with the driver and me.”
“We tried to stay a little longer to visit with him because we recognized the need for communication. I wish that we had so much time in our program that we could visit with clients for ten minutes here and there. Unfortunately, with our time constraints for delivery and the number of drivers we have, it isn’t possible to be at any location for more than a few minutes. Our program drivers, on average, deliver between 70 and 80 meals per day to clients, but, I also have a driver who delivers over 110 meals per day. As meal sites have been closed due to COVID restrictions, many of our meal site recipients who live in senior housing and low-income apartments are now receiving deliveries to their door.”
Prior to COVID-19, OAP also provided lunch at two meal sites in Anchorage. “I really enjoy going to the meal sites. The [clients] love the attention, and joking and talking with us. I enjoy the social relationships the meal site locations offer,” said Shaetze. “The people who come to the meal site go to have company. They use the meal sites as a time for conversation, so they have a connection to the world outside their living room, which is important.”
Regarding senior safety, Schaetze noted that his drivers make sure they hear or see every client at least two times per week. There have been incidents in the past where Salvation Army drivers needed to call 9-1-1 for a medical emergency or refer an issue of elder abuse to social services. Schaetze noted that the clients build relationships with their drivers and see them as their point of contact for the program because they see them daily and know what to expect.
“I received a call from a lady last week that said, ‘I want to say something about the food!” And I thought, oh no, what has happened? Then she goes on to say, ‘this is the best food and I really appreciate it. I want to thank you for all the hard work you guys put in here. I love your food and don’t stop delivering because I want more,’ said Schaetze with a smile. “That’s what she said.”
You can help seniors continue to live independently by helping The Salvation Army with food support for the Older Alaskans program. To donate, visit https://salarmy.us/325F0Qf. To volunteer as a meal packer or driver, visit volunteer.usawest.org and search zip code 99501.
To learn more about The Salvation Army Older Alaskans Program, visit oap.salvationarmy.org.