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HomeVirus Update

Lancaster Downtowners Coronavirus Update


Lancaster Downtowners Coronavirus Response

May 28th 2020


As I meet virtually with the board and committees and chat with individual members, it seems as though a lot of us have buckled into our pandemic routines. Store delivery services have improved, many people have established a phone call or Zoom schedule with loved ones, and cloth face masks are in fashion instead of in short supply. 

As the world shifts around us, Lancaster Downtowners will maintain a cautious approach to reinstating activities even after our county meets all criteria for transitioning to new phases. 

Throughout all phases of re-opening we will:

  • be creative in offering physically-distanced opportunities for social connection and support, 

  • embrace technology for programs and operations, 

  • reach out via email, phone, and mail, 

  • and maintain best practices in regards to social distancing, sanitation, and hand hygiene when we are able to be in person. 

The Program Committee continues to host regular events via Zoom. Over 60 members have interacted virtually over the last weeks, and over a dozen members received training via Just One Call. As a reminder -- you can also call in with your phone (cell or landline) and participate without video. 

While discussion driven groups remain open to only Downtowners, members of the LancasterREC Senior Center (currently closed) have been invited to several larger presentations, such as A Garden Story and LifeCycles. This is an easy way to share about our organization with the community and welcome new people. We look forward to touring their facility in the future when appropriate! 

If there is a special interest group or program you'd like to see on Zoom, let us know.

Our Downtowners Zoom account is not just for programs and committees, but can also be used to connect with your Neighbor Group. Some groups are connecting every two weeks, others have maintained a quarterly schedule. Melissa will be working with member Henry Biedrzycki and the JOC Committee to strengthen and support our Neighbor Groups over the next few months. 

Just One Call has welcomed many new, non-member volunteers since the pandemic began. Individuals in our community are eager to support our mission. Volunteers have passed background checks, received virtual training, and follow individualized instructions for grocery deliveries or yard work. All volunteers and requesting members are screened prior to the service. JOC is not offering in-home maintenance at this time, and transportation is limited to necessary non-COVID-19 related medical appointments; drivers and passengers are screened and provided with sanitation procedures. 

As recommendations change we will evaluate JOC requests on a case by case basis and will follow CDC recommendations. 

Organizationally we are on firm footing as we approach an unknown future. The Lancaster Downtowners applied and received support through the Payroll Protection Program of the CARES Act, we have received continued support from our business sponsors, and we are buoyed by the generous grant received from the High Foundation in January. However, we have had to shift and reimagine not only our internal programs, but how we might reach more individuals and meet our goals for growth and sustainability this year. 

At our May meeting, the board of directors participated in a conversation to explore our framework over the next months. 

Themes that emerged include: 

  • We are grateful for the strong foundation of Downtowners that has enabled us to pivot quickly and serve our members. 

  • We are open to creative solutions and trying new ideas. 

  • This is an opportunity to learn our areas of strength and need as our organization relates to members and to the larger community. 

  • As we reflect on this particular experience, might we consider more prominently how our mission can serve the larger community as it also serves members. 

I look forward to some of the creative ways we may connect in the coming months, such as these: The Wheatland Neighbor Contact Group is collectively providing cookies for a community meal in their neighborhood. The Program Committee is arranging a city-wide porch visit event, for those who are comfortable walking across town to wave (from 6 ft away) to fellow (masked) Downtowners on their porches. 


Thank you to the sincere efforts by our board directors, committee members, and volunteers. Even in the midst of a pandemic, they fulfill our vision of a welcoming, caring community that supports independence, social connection, and learning. 

April 6 2020

I hope that you are doing all in your power to stay calm, stay safe, and stay home as we all adapt and adjust to life in the midst of COVID-19. 


The Downtowners have spent many years building social connection, formalizing informal supports, and encouraging one another maintain independence through interdependence. While we couldn't anticipate a pandemic, we find ourselves relatively prepared. Our day-to-day activities and operation have been altered, but the village is here for such a time as this. I'd like to share with you how our organization has adapted so far. 


1. With in-person gatherings indefinitely on hold, virtual events are being creatively facilitated by our Program Committee. Koffee Klatch for general conversation, Book Group, and a full calendar of online presentations by members and discussion topics are on tap throughout April. 


2. If you weren't an active user of Zoom before, chances are you're well-versed in the video conferencing interface at this point! Committees continue to meet using the software, and staff and volunteers have trained over a dozen members in how to use Zoom to remain connected. Our board will meet via Zoom on April 13th. We're grateful for the ways technology has enabled our village to continue operating.


3. The Resource Committee has been keeping members up to date on grocery, prepared food, and pharmacy delivery and pick-up options. 


4. Neighborhood Group leaders have been reaching out to members who live near them, our wonderful interns have been making check-in calls, and committee meetings go beyond 'just business' as we share the dark spots and the bright spots from our current experiences.   


5. Just One Call volunteers remain active, with adjustments. Our volunteers and requesting members are screened for symptoms and counseled on best practices to maintain social distance while completing the necessary task. We are focused on grocery and pharmacy shopping and delivery, and are evaluating all other requests (including transportation) on a case-by-case basis. We have fulfilled increased requests for grocery shopping and remote technology coaching over the last weeks, and have the capacity to fulfill more as needed. This increased capacity is due in part to a great response by younger volunteers signing up to help. We are so grateful for the way Lancaster unites in challenging times. 


6. We are still moving forward with new initiatives! The Just One Call Committee hosted two virtual trainings for a new service, Health Buddies. Through Health Buddies members will be able to request a trained volunteer to attend medical appointments with them for the purpose of taking notes to support increased understanding and adherence. This program has been successful in other villages and we are excited to offer this additional support to Lancaster Downtowners as soon as it is safe to be physically together again. 


Thank you for supporting our vibrant, connected community. If you or someone you know would benefit from the type of support Downtowners is designed to provide, I encourage you to reach out and join us as a member or a volunteer. We recognize the power of community now more than ever. 


March 15, 2020


The Board and Staff of Lancaster Downtowners are concerned about the effect the Coronavirus would have on our members and volunteers should Lancaster experience an outbreak. While we hope that our community will be spared, we must be prepared. “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.” Because the members of our Downtowners community are considered in the vulnerable demographic, we want to be especially thoughtful in our approach.



The Executive Director will be regularly monitoring theCenter for Disease Controland PA Department of Health websites.

If Lancaster County has an outbreak of the Coronavirus, our members and volunteers will be immediately notified, and all programs and events will be cancelled or postponed until the outbreak has passed.

Throughout the crisis we will increase communication to our members and volunteers, keeping them informed and sharing helpful information.



If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

If you feel sick with a cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, call your doctor’s office and tell them your symptoms so they can help make decisions about whether, where and when you should be evaluated.

If you are sick and have a Just One Call need (grocery delivery, pharmacy delivery etc) Melissa Ressler and John Kanagy will help you make arrangements. Your Neighborhood Group is also a resource.

If you test positive for the coronavirus, please notify the office and let us know if you have attended any Downtowners programs, events or meetings in the previous 2 weeks.

We will contact the people who attended those gatherings and let them know that they may have been exposed to coronavirus and should contact their doctor.

Let Melissa or John know what you will need while you are sick and how we can help; we also encourage you to communicate within your Neighborhood Groups.

For members and volunteers who live alone, please let us know if you would like a daily check-in call.



As always, we will do our best to match your request with a volunteer provider, but that may be difficult during a community crisis. Whether we have a volunteer or not, Melissa will help coordinate services that address your needs.

Grocery Shopping:

A request will be sent to our Just One Call volunteers, but if we don’t have a volunteer available, Melissa will help you with other options in the community.

If you have groceries delivered through Just One Call or an alternative delivery service, ask the delivery person to call you when they arrive and to leave your groceries outside your door – this is for your protection as well as the person making the delivery.

If you would like to set up grocery delivery services there are local options available via telephone, online, or on an app. If you want help proactively setting these up please contact the office.


If you need medications delivered to your home contact Just One Call and a request will be sent to our Just One Call volunteers. If a volunteer is not available, the staff will work with you to ensure that your medications are delivered.

In the meantime, call your pharmacy to see if they deliver and, if so, to determine their guidelines and fees, if any. If you need a referral for local pharmacies that deliver, please contact the office.

If you have medications delivered through Just One Call or an alternative delivery service, ask the delivery person to call you when they arrive and to leave your medications outside your door – this is for your protection as well as the person making the delivery.


You are encouraged to be in touch via phone or email with your Neighborhood Groups and proactively check-in on the well-being of one another.

Helpful Information:

Just One Call/John: 717-584-1248

Downtowners Office/Melissa: 717-584-1224

CDC Website:Click Here

PA Department of Health Website:Click Here

coronavirus prevention

Executive Director Office Hours:  Monday 9am-3pm,   Wednesday 9am-3pm,  Thursday 9am-noon