LYME/OLD LYME — UPDATED MARCH 19, 11:50am: In response to the current Coronavirus situation, Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau (LYSB) Director Mary Seidner and Old Lyme Social Services Coordinator Jen Datum hosted a teleconference Wednesday morning with all the non-profit organizations and social services in Lyme, Old Lyme and the local region involved in helping families in need during the widespread shutdowns prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The aim of the teleconference was to give the organizations an opportunity to discuss their current operations, needs, and concerns. After gathering the information shared during the teleconference, Seidner and Datum’s plan is to compile a resource directory for the citizens of Old Lyme and Lyme with the intent of sharing it widely.
Present at the meeting were representatives from:
- Ledge Light Health District
- Thames Valley Council of Community Action
- Lymes’ Senior Center
- Town of Old Lyme
- Town of Lyme
- Saint Ann’s Episcopal Church
- Christ The King Church
- First Congregational Church of Old Lyme
- First Congregational Church of Lyme
- Lyme-Old Lyme Schools
- Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce
- Old Lyme-Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library
- Mentoring Corps Community Development
- 9-Town Transit
- Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries
LymeLine.com was also invited to join the teleconference.
Each agency or organization gave an overview of how its operations have been affected by the enforced and/or elective shutdowns due to the virus and how it is responding in the sense of adding or changing its services. A summary of the reports given by the individual agencies/organizations is at the foot of this article.
Old Lyme Emergency Services Director David Roberge then summed up all the responses, saying “There is a lot of commonality here,” noting that areas in which support was being given fell into five broad categories. These were
- mental/emotional/spiritual support
- logistical issues such as picking up prescriptions, groceries, meals, etc.
- transportation challenges, i.e., getting to and from appointments, from one location to another, using buses, etc.
- providing economic support to businesses suffering financial hardhip due to either enforced closure or a serious drop in traffic as a result of people either staying at home or being financially challenged
- clear and comprehensive communication to Lyme and Old Lyme residents and businesses.
He proposed that all the organizations should “start co-ordinating, combine resources, and minimize duplication,” and went on to say that an email would go out after the end of the teleconference asking each organization to confirm details of what had been discussed. Lymes’ Youth Services Bureau will process all those responses to combine them into both written information and a website for general release to the public. It is hoped that the website will be up and operational Wednesday or Thursday.
Seidner mentioned during the teleconference that some substantial philanthropic donations had been made to support individuals or groups that are experiencing hardship from the Coronavirus pandemic. She said a fund would be set up that she and the First Selectmen of Lyme and Old Lyme would manage in association with the Social Service Directors of each town. Details of the fund and how to donate to it will be given on the new website.
In a phone conversation after the meeting, Roberge expressed how pleased he was to LymeLine.com that three disparate groups, namely the Towns of Lyme and Old Lyme respectively, the youth of the two towns, and local non-profits have now all been successfully brought together through this teleconference. He noted that prior to this, each group, Town, or organization had been acting independently but now areas in which they can work together more effectively and efficiently will be identified and a plan implemented for those areas.
Roberge said he saw it as the first seeds of “creating a Task Force for the two towns that would serve the needs of the whole Lyme-Old Lyme community,” during this time of coping with the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Updates reported by each organization present at the teleconference:
- Kris Magnusson of Ledge Light Health District (LLHD) reported that, as at the time of the teleconference, no cases of Coronavirus have been reported in New London County. LLHD has increased communications by phone and mail. LLHD has been maintaining situational awareness through weekly teleconferences with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CT Department of Public Health (DPH). They are conducting countless activities related to preparedness and communicating regularly with town leaders and community partners. Drive-through testing starting at L+M but only for those referred by their family physician.
- TVCCA mentioned fuel assistance benefits have been extended through the spring. Utility shut-offs have been postponed indefinitely. Tax assistance is postponed for the moment.
- Meals on Wheels continues.
- Stephanie Gould reported that Lymes’ Senior Center is closed. All groups, programs, and activities at the Lymes’ Senior Center are canceled until further notice. The nurse will hold her regular 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Monday to Friday schedule to address senior needs. If readers call the Estuary by 11 a.m. on a Monday, they can pick up five frozen meals curbside at the Senior Center — no need to get out of the car. A donation of $3 per meal is requested and can be left in the trunk where it can be picked up by the volunteer placing the meals there. Frozen meals can also be picked up two at a time at The Estuary on Tuesdays/Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Amy Hollis from Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries has closed all meal sites but maintained their food pantry pick-up service. No registration is required – groceries will be brought outside to client.
- Superintendent Ian Neviaser reported that Lyme-OldLyme Schools are closed for two weeks, though he anticipates the closure to last much longer based on the latest information he has received. The state of Connecticut gave permission Monday for schools to move to online distance learning. LOL Schools are surveying parents to determine internet access/device availability and also lunch needs. Lunches will be available where needed from Thursday. LOL Schools are working to distribute devices to all 7-12 graders so that they can participate in distance learning. Neviaser noted things are moving very fast and the schools are keeping everyone informed as rapidly as possible.
- Town of Old Lyme – all town buildings closed. Town hall operations are still functioning. Information is on the Town website about how to contact whoever you need in town government. More at this link.
- Kathy Tisdale reported for the Town of Lyme – Town website has been reorganized around the Coronavirus emergency. All town buildings will be closed. Selectmen have encouraged all meetings be postponed. More at this link.
- Joe Comerford said 9 Town Transit is still running a regular service. Ridership was normal last week but is down 50 percent this week. May require service to be reduced, but Demand Response will continue regardless.
- Bill Archer said Lymes’ Senior Center is empty, clean and ready to be used as a respite center. A plan is in place to serve community members over 60 and/or those with special needs.
- Old Lyme Visiting Nurse Association has cancelled all visits. They are calling through their phone lists to check on people. Call Cindi Taylor at 860-876-0456 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. if you would like prescriptions picked up.
- Local churches:
- Christ the King – Bishop mandated that no further public masses should be held from Tuesday. The church is always open and updates are given on the website.
- Saint Ann’s Episcopal Church – The office is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and the church is focussing on online resources. The Priest-in-Charge said she thought it highly unlikely any Holy Week services wuld be celebrated this year.
- Senior Minister Steve Jungkeit reported that First Congregational Church of Old Lyme has moved everything online, including giving services, having meetings, etc. , via Zoom. Teams of callers are calling each person in the congregation to reach out and “see what needs there are.”
- Lyme First Congregational Church said all Sunday worship services are cancelled from March 22 onward. The pastor will post a modified worship service online on March 22.
- Old Lyme Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library Director Katie Huffman stated that the library is closed as is the book drop. She requested patrons keep their currently borrowed books at home. Staff are working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and available for research needs, educational resources by phone.
- Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce President Rich Shriver noted that some local restaurants have started take-out services and “certainly could use all of our support.”
Editor’s Note: Kudos to Mary Seidner and Jen Datum for getting everyone together at such short notice and also to all participants for the strong spirit evident universally to help and support all members of our Lyme-Old Lyme community to the greatest extent possible in this time of crisis. Many remarked on how forward-thinking and pro-active it was to hold the teleconference and move forward positively and efficiently from there.