Four months. Four months!?! No matter how many times I say it, it’s hard to believe it’s nearly been that long since the stay-at-home order was put in place in DC. When Iona closed our building on March 17, we never expected the long road ahead—that in July, we’d still be working from home, worried about so many in our lives, and wondering about our future.
Yet, despite the circumstances, I have deep gratitude and hope. In this time, we’ve innovated and shifted our programs in ways that I could not have imagined a few months ago (you can read our blog post for a complete and updated list of our service changes here). Believe me, we could only jump into action because of your commitment to our mission.
In our wildest dreams, Iona hoped to offer online classes and grocery deliveries one day. Today, we have 16 virtual fitness classes and other activities like concerts, discussion groups, art classes, and more to keep people socially connected and active. Additionally, our Wellness & Arts Center is offering Zoom group activities and one-on-one calls to people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other challenges. Telehealth has also become a welcome addition to our mental health services, and we’ve made the switch to virtual support groups.
You’ve also helped us to make hundreds of deliveries of shelf-stable foods, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and more to clients across all 8 Wards. You can’t imagine the relief these deliveries have meant—especially for those with health-risks, no way of traveling to a grocery store or ordering groceries online, or very little income.
After four months of lessons learned—and as we look ahead—we’re faced with a new challenge. How do we sustain these innovative programs?
We know that for some clients, our virtual programs have made our services more accessible. I can’t tell you how many emails we’ve received from grateful neighbors telling us that they never participated in our in-person programs because of a disability. Now, they can join safely from home. We want to keep it up! At the same time, other clients with unreliable phone or Internet service—and limited resources to purchase new ones—have struggled during this crisis. We’re looking ahead to figure out how to sustain these programs AND provide better technology to those who need it.
We’re also considering what we’ll need in place to reopen Iona safely. We’re piloting a very small reopening of our Wellness & Arts adult day health center in Tenleytown and hope to do the same at our new Washington Home Center in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Ward 8 in August. But our budget didn’t account for this kind of crisis and the purchases we’ll need to make to keep our community safe are significant. Things like ordering PPE for frontline staff…installing Plexiglas in our reception area…ramping up our disinfecting and cleaning services…and much, much more. We’re facing financial gaps that we’ve never expected at a time when the needs just keep growing.
Where will Iona be in another 4 months? I wish I could predict the future. What I can tell you is this: Iona will always work hard to protect and provide for older adults and their families, in large part because of our wonderful community.
As we look to the long road ahead, if you’re able to do so, I hope that you’ll consider making a donation to support our efforts. Your ongoing financial commitment means we’ll be able to sustain our services well beyond this pandemic, and prepare for what comes next.
I am grateful to have you in our community.
Sally S. White