As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city and the Vincennes Township Trustee have established an Assistance Outreach Program to help those in the highest risk categories who are unable to leave their homes because of age, disability or compromised immune systems.
City officials say the program will provide regular check-ins and assist with the delivery of food and other supplies and continue as long as necessary.
But many local seniors say, though they’ve never experienced anything like the current pandemic, they are staying positive and counting their blessings having lived through hard times before.
Dee Montgomery, who is 83, says it’s the uncertainty about COVID-19 that’s the worst.
“It’s the not knowing,” she said over the phone. “There are things worse than death, and this is one of them because of the uncertainty and fear.”
Montgomery, who lives alone, has been through difficult hardships, having lost a daughter in 1990 and a son in 2017, and she says also remembers the strain of living through World War II.
“It feels a little like the war days,” she said. “During the war our food, sugar, tires and shoes were all rationed. I lived through that, so I can handle this.
“We don’t realize the good times when we have them, when we could walk in the grocery store and get anything we wanted,” Montgomery said. “We take things for granted.”
Self-isolating for about two weeks now, Montgomery says she feels fortunate that her daughter, Debbie, lives nearby and keeps her pantry stocked.
“Debbie does everything for me. I’m very fortunate,” she said.
Sixty-eight-year old Ron Kotter says, for now, he is still working in the financial aid office of Vincennes University. His wife, Kim, a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital is “on the front line of screening people as they come in,” she said.
Though both Kotter and his wife must continue working, he says they’re using extra caution and wish others would heed the warnings from health officials.
“We try to stay away from groups, and we’re not going out many places,” he said. “But sometimes I get a little frustrated, because I don’t think everyone’s taking this as seriously as they should.
“When it hits Knox County they will,” Kotter said.
Kotter and his wife, who had just finished live-streaming the worship service of Thursday Church, both say they’re leaning on faith.
“We know whatever happens, God is still in charge,” he said. “We lift each other up that way.”
Spending an hour or two on his bicycle — when weather permits — and utilizing technology to stay connected with friends and family are other ways Kotter is coping with both the uncertainties of the virus as well as the isolation that can come from keeping physical distance.
Montgomery, too, is thankful for the connections that 21st century technology allows.
Describing herself, with a laugh, as a “go-go girl,” who regularly went to the senior center in Lawrenceville, Illinois, to connect with friends, Montgomery says she’s thankful for “computers and Facebook and the telephone,” which keep her connected to the world outside her door.
Montgomery also has the love and company of her faithful companion, Moses, “the best dog in the world,” she says.
But she and Kotter recognize that not all community members who are isolated are as fortunate as they.
“We can’t just isolate and think about ‘taking care of me, and my household,’ that’s not who we are,” Kotter said. “At least I hope that’s not who are. That’s not who we want to be.
“If you know someone might be lonely, call them and let them know you’re thinking about them to lift them up,” he said. “If they’re isolated, they think nobody cares.”
During an emotional moment, Montgomery — in a most comforting voice — said that it’s important to remember that, “it’s okay to cry sometimes.”
“God gave us tears to release the pressure of our feelings,” she said.
“The daffodils are blooming, the hyacinths are coming up, and I looked out this morning and the grass was all green,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got plenty to be thankful for.”
If you or a loved one are unable to leave your home because of high risk factors, or if you become infected and are home-bound until healed, you can enroll in the Assistance Outreach Program.
If you have questions or would like to enroll, call 812-882-7285 or visit https://www.vincennes.org/ and click on the Assistance Outreach Program link.