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Lori ThompsonSault Tribe’s Elder Services Division have dedicated team members who are going above and beyond making sure tribal elders within the tribe’s seven-county service area are taken care of during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elder Services staff are screened every morning by Mark Willis, R.N., and temperatures are taken every day. To keep staff current on latest developments, a staff meeting is held each morning that sometimes seems like war room planning, according to Elder Services Director Holly Kibble. Phone calls are made to other meal sites to plan and adapt services as news of the coronavirus spreads. Masks and gloves are part of everyday attire and no hugs from elders or staff are allowed.

Elder Services Transportation Driver Joe Harper has added many new medication deliveries to his day to help keep elders at home. St. Ignace, Hessel and Sault Ste. Marie meal sites have experienced an increase in both home-delivered meals and curbside pick-up meals. Newly hired cook Glenda Guerra didn’t get a chance to meet many elders before the closing of the congregate dining room and the conversion to curbside pick-up, but is happy to continue making good-tasting nutritious meals for them.

Kibble said that Administrative Assistant Heidi Aikens and Transportation Coordinator Jodi Thompson take meals out to the elders waiting in their vehicles and sometimes come back into the building a little heartbroken as they take time to visit with the elders at a safe 6-foot distance, but can't offer that hug they know is so desperately needed right now. In order to keep up with demand, frozen meals are cooked and stored on-site to make sure there is an adequate supply for elders in quarantine.

Connie Cadotte and Lori Theisen in St. Ignace have been an anchor for elders in St. Ignace. Kibble said they are sometimes the only people elders see during the day and many elders look forward to hearing them come to the door. Joann Fick and Midge Gugin lead the charge in the Hessel kitchen, handing out curbside pick-ups and making home deliveries to elders anxious to see them arrive.

In-home Service Aides Mary Sawyers, Lori Severance and Kristine Stoken are continuing home visits with their elder clients, who they say have adapted to their new uniforms of gloves and masks the aides must now wear while helping them with the activities of daily living. Sawyers, Severance and Stoken are also checking on homebound elders each day, making sure they are safe and have everything they need.

These 12 critical staff join the fight against COVID-19 every day by protecting, caring for and serving the tribes most vulnerable population, our elders. Helping them in the fight, the Elder Service Division was successful in securing additional funding from Families First Coronavirus Response Act under the Title VI Native Americans Nutrition Services to help with additional expenses during this pandemic.

If you have any questions about services for elders living in the tribe’s seven county service area, contact Elder Services Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. by calling 906‑635‑4971 or 888‑711‑7356, or email Holly Kibble at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photo: Transportation Coordinator Jodi Thompson hands out lunches to elders.

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY