By Mary-Justine Lanyon
Lake Arrowhead resident Jack Cooperman would say there’s nothing unique about him. Like so many other mountain residents, he devotes a great deal of his time to supporting local nonprofits.
Two nonprofits – Rim of the World Special Athletes and Mountain Meals on Wheels – hold a special place in his heart. He and the other board members of the two groups have figured out how to continue the support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
RIM SPECIAL ATHLETES
Ordinarily, Cooperman would meet with 25 or more members of Rim of the World Special Athletes once a week at a dock where the athletes can swim, ride tandem bikes on the water, kayak or frolic with foam noodles.
To honor the limitations on gatherings, Cooperman started meeting with just one or two families at a time on April 29. He will continue to do so on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“Rather than people just showing up,” he said, “I’ll be calling them and scheduling them.”
And where, in the past, he might have had other volunteers helping him, now he will probably run the program himself. “If I need help, it will be from one of the parents. The program will run on a much smaller scale.”
As hard as the situation is for everyone – with physical distancing, wearing masks, staying at home – “individuals with cognitive disabilities just don’t understand what’s going on,” Cooperman said. “It adds another dimension of stress for them.
“A good portion of these individuals live on a routine. Life is the same every day. This has put a lot of them into a semi-depression. We’re trying to do as much as we can to increase activities for them.”
On the first day of water activities, one mother and son rode the tandem bike all around the bay for more than a half hour. Another family paddled a kayak while a couple of participants floated with foam noodles.
In addition to the water activities, the special athletes can also continue to participate in yoga, which Kim Meares is offering on Zoom.
MOUNTAIN MEALS ON WHEELS
Without meal deliveries on Monday through Friday from Mountain Meals on Wheels, its 39 clients would possibly go hungry. The board could not allow that to happen.
“Since COVID-19,” Cooperman, the vice president of the board, said, “we have changed the system of picking up the meals.” Those meals are prepared by the kitchen staff at Mountains Community Hospital.
Whereas the drivers would go into the kitchen to load their cooler bags, now they knock on the window and hold up the number of fingers to indicate their route number. The kitchen staff then rolls out a cart with their meals on it; the drivers load their coolers outside.
They still check each bag as some recipients have special dietary needs.
When they get to the recipients’ homes, the procedure is also different.
“We do not take food into the homes where people wanted us to in the past,” Cooperman said.
Ann Berman, who oversees the drivers, said they asked each recipient to put a cooler outside their door. “We hope to go back to visiting with our people,” she said.
Cooperman added that, on their own, the kitchen staff will often add a bag of extra food or canned goods they have been buying. “They know what we know – whatever the recipients got in addition to our meals before, they may not be getting now.”
Both Cooperman and Berman have high praise for deLynn Walker, the kitchen supervisor, and her staff. “deLynn has been sensational,” Cooperman said. “And the kitchen staff has been wonderful. We’re so fortunate. We’re able to meet the individual needs of the different participants.”
Berman said they give each driver a package of sanitizing wipes, which they use to wipe off their steering wheel, gear shift, door handles – anywhere they have contact with the car.
Meals on Wheels also offered masks to the drivers as well as hand sanitizer. “We managed to get some and made little bottles for each driver,” Berman said. “When they’re on their route, between each recipient, they clean their hands.”
She added that one long-time driver took it upon himself to looks up the WHO formula for hand sanitizer, ordered the ingredients and started putting it together. “He gave me about 30 bottles to give to the drivers,” Berman said.
“And, if that’s not enough, his wife has been making masks for various groups. She gave us cloth masks so we’d have one for every driver.”
Currently, Mountain Meals on Wheels has enough drivers to cover all the routes. Berman said folks have been calling “because they know there’s a need and they want to help.
“We’re in good shape when it comes to our drivers but we’re always asking,” she said. “We started making a backup list of willing people.”
The annual spaghetti dinner, which would have been held on May 3, had to be canceled. The Mountain Meals on Wheels board – President Ianita Wagner, Cooperman, Berman, Debbie McAdam, Wilma Rexwinkel, Diane Reed and Dan Reed – asks folks to consider donating through their website, www.mountainmealsonwheels.org, since they have lost this major fundraiser.