During the May 18 meeting of the Rochester Council on Aging Board of Directors meeting, Woody Hartley made a suggestion that quickly won the hearts and minds of the other board members as well as the COA Director Cheryl Randall-Mach.
Hartley, who is also a selectman, stated, “The teenagers went home and – boom – on Friday it was over,” speaking of the abrupt closing of all schools. He said that high school seniors had been especially impacted by school closures and believed it was important to let those graduating seniors know how important they are to the community.
“We have 77 students from Rochester graduating from three high schools,” Hartley said. But none will know the joy of participating in graduation ceremonies. To take the sting out of that disappointing reality, Hartley suggested that senior citizens, COA board members, videotape celebratory greetings naming each of the students, giving them a moment, albeit brief, of joyful recognition.
Laying out the process, Hartley said that each participating board member would be given a list of students’ names and as the member is videotaped they will say each graduate’s name with best wishes and congratulations. He said the videos would then be compiled, edited, and made available on various social media platforms. “It’s a simple thing, but it’s something we can do for our students,” he said. Hartley said that once completed the schools would be contacted to let them know what Rochester’s COA Board of Directors had done for the graduates. The board members unanimously approved the idea with several members volunteering to share good wishes to the graduates.
Another bit of good news was shared by Randall-Mach, who told the members that the annual Rochester Memorial first grade Arbor Day tree giveaway to first graders was once again planned. In a follow-up Randall-Mach said that for 30 years the COA has been purchasing blue spruce saplings and passing them out to first graders on Arbor Day. She said that this year the program would be held outdoors and the trees would be given to the children as they arrived to collect materials and personal belongings that had been left in the school when it closed. Randall-Mach said, “We are so happy to be able to do this,” adding that safety, social distancing, and the wearing of face coverings would be employed.
Earlier in the meeting, Randall-Mach shared that grant training for vans was now in process and that the food bank held monthly was still in operation. She said that through Coastline Elderly Services the food program might be extended through the summer months. The food bank distributes from the Rochester COA parking lot on the second Wednesday of each month. Interested parties can contact the COA for further details.
Staff adjustments due to COVID-19 and subsequent Senior Center closure were briefly touched on with Hartley commending the staff and the director for their efforts. Regarding van service for healthy seniors needing transportation to medical appointments, Randall-Mach explained the intricate process that will be required to maintain physical distancing once the service resumes.
Randall-Mach said that at the present time there were no plans to re-open the senior center, but that the installation of safety shields would be taking place soon.
The next meeting of the Rochester Council on Aging Board of Directors has not been scheduled at this time. Visit rochestermaseniorcenter.com for details.
Rochester Council on Aging Board of Directors
By Marilou Newell