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Check-in call brings world of help

By Sue A. Miles

Special to the Farmville Herald

Qualifying older adults in the area have a resource in an agency on aging whose mission is to provide supportive services and advocacy for persons 60 years of age and older.

Piedmont Senior Resources, Inc. (PSR), headquartered in Farmville, serves seniors in Prince Edward, Buckingham, Cumberland, Charlotte, Lunenburg, Amelia, and Nottoway counties. 

PSR provides numerous services, most income based, to hundreds of clients throughout southside Virginia. Those services include home delivered meals, care packages, non-emergency medical transportation to doctor appointments, care coordinators for clients who have difficulties with self-care and a homemaker program that provides meal preparation and basic companionship.

Before COVID changed social activities, many PSR seniors would participate in weekly county-based Friendship Cafes. When the virus shut down the cafes, PSR created a volunteer, phone-based wellness check system that has proven to be successful in making connections with seniors who otherwise would be shut-in and socially isolated.

Over the past six months, PSR volunteers have made more than 2,700 phone calls to seniors for monthly check-ins to see how they are doing. They also inquire about what needs they may have and sometimes simply chat and socialize.

One situation demonstrates the importance of PSR in the lives of seniors.

“PSR has a very skilled team of individuals who often intervene and advocate in situations on behalf of seniors,” Nutrition and Transportation Director Thomas Jordan Miles III said. “One of these people is Nikki Dean, our nutrition program coordinator, who was instrumental in helping the client in this story.”

The calls are fairly simple to make. The volunteers identify themselves and ask how the senior is doing. The volunteer, in this case, was Buckingham resident Margaret “Maggie” Snoddy. The PSR senior was Donald Ostrander. The results of that simple call were life changing.

It turns out that when Snoddy called 83-year-old Ostrander (who had just signed up as a PSR client) for the first time, he was in Hampton, where he’d gone to get medical treatment at a VA hospital. Along with prostate cancer, Ostrander was struggling with pain from a hernia. While getting treatment he was placed in a Hampton shelter.

Ostrander now sees Snoddy as a gift from an angel.

“I told her I was in Hampton and could not receive PSR meals at that time,” Ostrander said.

Snoddy noted his situation and said she or another volunteer would call back the next month.

“I told myself she ain’t going to call me back. What am I going to do?” Ostander said. “The situation in the shelter was not good. I couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I had to leave.”

Ostrander managed to get a ride back to Farmville, ending up in a motel in Blackstone, basically homeless.

With cancer, a painful hernia, and now homeless, Ostrander was at a very low place.

“I went to a church in Blackstone and spoke to God. I asked him to cure me. That was on a Sunday,” he said. “The hospital was supposed to operate that following Wednesday. The doctor tested me first, and the cancer was gone.” 

Meanwhile, continuing to stay in the Blackstone Motel was not financially possible for Ostrander.

“I got on my knees by my bed and asked God, ‘what am I going to do?’ I didn’t have any money and I need a place to stay by the first of the month,” he said.

That is when the next month’s wellness check-in call came from Snoddy and PSR went into action. After Snoddy learned that Ostrander had returned to the area, she alerted PSR about his situation. Along with finding him an affordable place to stay, PSR helped set up rides to doctor appointments, made sure he had nutritous meals, as well as helping with other essential needs.

“When Maggie called and informed me of Mr. Ostrander’s situation, I immediately contacted Mr. Ostrander to see what PSR could do to help,” Dean said. “His story brought tears to my eyes, and I immediately got to work on finding him a place to stay. Once he was settled, we made sure he had the necessary food, clothes and other bedding items so he was comfortable. Then, I got to work on his medical issues. Thankfully we were able to contact the VA on his behalf, straighten up his medical issues and get him the transportation he needed to make those much-needed doctors’ appointments. Mr. Ostrander is a sweet man and has been 100% appreciative for everything given to help him throughout this process. This is why I do what I do and why I love what I do.”

Ostrander looks at PSR and Snoddy as his lifesavers. He also acknowledges God’s power.

“Look at what he did,” he said. “I can’t turn God away. There’s only one God. You’re going to need him one day. I was all alone, and no family.”

Ostrander gives much credit to Snoddy for being his guardian angel.

“Thank you all for what you’re doing,” he said to Snoddy when she recently visited him in Blackstone. “I wouldn’t know what to do or where to go. You came to my rescue.”

Ostrander is now settled in his new home. His medical issues are being addressed, and PSR continues to provide vital services to him so he can continue to live independently. Each month he still gets his monthly wellness call from Snoddy, who has also worked with PSR to identify a volunteer in Amelia County who delivers groceries to him.

Snoddy, as well as the other PSR volunteers, know they are making a difference.

If you’d like to know more about Piedmont Senior Resources or if you’d like to volunteer for any of their programs go https://www.psraaa.org/ or (434) 767-5588.