Concession conversion

BARRE — It may seem like forever ago, but it’s barely been two weeks since they were selling popcorn and hot dogs in the basement of the Barre Municipal Auditorium and high school girls were playing basketball upstairs.

Not any more. On Monday the concession area was converted into a make-shift hospital capable of serving up to 50 patients.

Though the cots are empty and the tables unused, Barre’s share of the state’s 271 Med/Surge beds are ready and waiting in the event Vermont hospitals are overwhelmed during the coronavirus crisis.

That need didn’t appear imminent on Wednesday, when the state Health Department at one point noted there were 575 hospital beds, 44 intensive-care beds, 75 isolation beds and 120 negative pressure rooms available. Those numbers, officials noted, are updated daily and change hourly, which has been pretty much par for the course since they stopped playing basketball at the Aud.

Help wanted needed

MONTPELIER — Jaime Bedard has a reliable cadre of volunteers, but these days the executive director of the organization — Just Basics — that runs the Montpelier Food Pantry will tell you good help is getting hard to find.

That isn’t a reflection on Bedard’s trusted volunteers, but an acknowledgment that most of them are older than 60 and in an age bracket most vulnerable when it comes to COVID-19.

It’s why Bedard has shifted into recruiting mode in hopes of lining up younger volunteers to help staff the food pantry in Trinity United Methodist Church during the next few weeks and potentially months.

It’s a perfect gig for high school or college students with time on their hands and a rewarding opportunity for those younger than 60 and in good health.

Bedard says she has streamlined procedures to make food distribution as quick and safe as possible, and is looking for folks to staff it, make deliveries or donations if time is an issue.

“We really need to stay open for our most vulnerable neighbors,” she says.

If you can lend a hand, or need more details before making that commitment just shoot an email to Bedard at director@justbasicsvt.org, and she’ll fill you in.

Red alert!

BARRE — Thousands of blood drives have been canceled during the COVID-10 pandemic creating a supply shortage that has the Red Cross beating the bushes for donors.

The good news is, two blood drives set for today – one at the Barre Elks Lodge and the other at the Berlin Armory – are booked solid.

There are still slots available for Friday’s blood drive at the Berlin Mall; another will be held Monday at Christ Episcopal Church in Montpelier, and a third that is set for next Friday on the second floor of Alumni Hall (it’s the building connected to Barre Municipal Auditorium) in Barre.

Appointments are required, and can be made online at redcrossblood.org, or by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS.

If anyone asks, donors are essential.

Digital divide?

BARRE — Whether it’s Zoom or GoToMeeting, video conferencing apps are getting a workout at a time when health experts are preaching the importance of social distancing and state, local and school officials are paying attention.

Still there’s business to do and seeing who you are doing it with is a step up from just hearing their voices over the phone.

It’s why the Berlin Public Works Board test drove the Zoom app Monday night and why Barre Mayor Lucas Herring presided over his first-ever GoToMeeting meeting on Tuesday.

What did was learned? Both apps are pretty slick, and Herring certainly had an easier time running this week’s meeting from the center seat in Council Chambers at City Hall than he did with last week’s clunky conference call.

Beyond that? Ted Long, who serves on the public works board in Berlin is one heck of a hunter; Rich Morey, who represents Ward 3 on the city council in Barre, has six kids.

We know this in Long’s case because of what we saw, and in Morey’s case because of what we heard.

We’ll start with Long, who sat in front of his home computer Monday night with a pretty impressive collection of hunting trophy mounted on the walls behind him. When asked, he confirmed the trophies were all his.

Then there’s Morey, whose kids were barely audible Tuesday night, but made just enough background noise to prompt the GoToMeeting app to suggest he was speaking when he was simply sitting and listening.

Still cooking!

MONTPELIER — You can take the seniors out of the senior center, but that doesn’t mean it stops serving seniors.

Don’t take our word for it, just ask the folks at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, which, like others around the state, recently closed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Make that almost closed, because FEAST at Home (known to some as Meals on Wheels) is still doing what it’s always done.

Almost. FEAST at Home delivery has been reduced to once weekly to decrease exposure between recipients and volunteers, with one weekly hot meal and up to six frozen meals delivered at the same time, depending on need.

Volunteer drivers are trained to follow strict updated safety protocols and are equipped with hand sanitizer and other precautionary measures.

On nondelivery days, meal recipients receive friendly wellness check-in calls from the volunteer drivers they have come to know, and other needs are assessed regularly through the program that is managed on-site by Jessica Sanderson.

We’re told Sanderson is ready for a surge in meal requests, and is keeping the center’s walk-in freezer stocked with a week’s worth of frozen meals.

There is another change. FEAST To Go is now served from a tent in the courtyard in front of the Barre Street center from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Reservations are encouraged (just call 262-6288 or email feast@montpelier-vt.org) but not required. Meals are offered by suggested donation of $5 for those 60 and older and $7 for anyone younger than 60.

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