Neighbors Help Neighbors During Coronavirus Outbreak

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As the coronavirus pandemic went from an international story to a local one, with restaurants closing and older adults being advised to stay at home, Kristen Olmi, president of the League of Women Voters wanted to help seniors in the community.

The idea caught on with other members, including Leah Sakacs, senior volunteer and transportation coordinator in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, who helped organize a group to provide assistance to seniors during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Sakacs had four volunteers last week. Today she has 40.

Residents, officials, social agencies and Facebook groups are sharing time, talent and kindness by volunteering, checking in on neighbors, sharing helpful resources, donating personal protective equipment and organizing food drives. 

The Quick Action Group is a coordinated effort through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, the League of Women Voters and Shepherd of the Valley. 

Volunteers assist with picking up and delivering necessities such as medication and groceries to seniors in the Mahoning Valley during the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease spread by the coronavirus. 

Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance. Registration is available here.

“People at RSVP and our agency partnerships and a lot of people who work with seniors have been helping to spread the word. We pushed it out on social media. It’s really just everybody coming together as a community,” Sakacs said.

Since seniors are being advised not to leave their homes, Sakacs said they can call and ask either for a ride or ask for grocery delivery. 

“Online ordering is great and we will help someone set that up,” Sakacs said. “That way, they can place the order and we can pull up curbside, pick it up and deliver it to the senior’s doorstep and let them know it’s there. We don’t go inside. It’s important to keep them and volunteers safe.”  

Volunteers also can provide rides to medical appointments, provided the older adult is feeling well, not showing any symptoms and has not been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

“I tested the system and delivered groceries to a woman. She called me and appreciated that someone out in the community wants to help her and other seniors, Sakacs said.”

Sheperd of the Valley is providing the phone line, which Sakacs is handling. To book a ride for a medical appointment or to have a delivery made, call 330 530 4038

 Vince Brancaccio, director of Help Network of Northeast Ohio, said calls have increased into the 211 lines for information and links to services. Crisis lines are staffed 24 hours every day throughout the year. 

Brancaccio said he has increased the number of staff taking calls on the Warnline, a phone line for people to just to talk to someone. The number is 866 303 7337 noon-8 p.m. Monday through Friday  and 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s more for people who just need someone who just needs to talk. The lines are staffed with people who have lived experiences,” he said. “They’re not counselors or social workers, per se, but they can sit and listen and provide feedback.”

Brancaccio said walk-in centers for mental health clients in Youngstown and East Liverpool are closed and he has realigned staff to help out on phones in order to avoid layoffs.

He said if residents have anxiety or just want to talk, use the Warmline number so that crisis lines are open for people who need immediate crisis help from a counselor.

April Caraway, director of Trumbull Mental Health and Recovery Board, said the board is posting updates on self-care, dealing with anxiety and other behavioral health resources on Facebook pages here and here

She said the ability for people to use telemedicine is helping people get the care they need and mental health clients can call counselors or case managers during the outbreak. 

For people who are in need of rehabilitation services for addiction, she facilities remain open. People should call providers and they will be screened before receiving an appointment to come in. Area rehabilitation centers have bed openings.

Caraway said most addiction meetings have been canceled and she encourages those in recovery to go online for meetings. For information on online, phone and text meetings visit

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.