Marlen Miranda juggles three bags of groceries as she peers through the screen door of an apartment in Kerman.
Esther Velarde, 92, comes to the door. Miranda tells her she’s not allowed to enter the house for safety reasons so she leaves the bags filled with milk, eggs, beans and other groceries on her doorstep. The pandemic, Velarde tells Miranda, has taken a toll on her mental health.
“There are days when I feel so bad that I don’t open the door for nobody,” she says.
In addition to her age, Velarde has several health conditions, including arthritis, that make her a high risk candidate for catching COVID.
“I keep [the door] closed and I crochet part of my life away,” she says.
But she says she likes crocheting and it’s helped temper her arthritis. She’s almost done working on a blanket for herself.
“Well I have to enjoy myself because they don’t let me go out,” Velarde says.
Velarde is referring to her kids who want her to stay safe. She lives alone but has made friends in her apartment complex that are all older too, she says. She also has a caretaker named Maria, who signed her up to receive groceries from #SavetheSenioras.
Miranda says about half of the women who benefit from this service live alone.
But “the ones that I’ve gone to usually live with somebody. Also I’ve noticed they alternate like they live a few months with one kid and then they go on to the other kids,” she says.
Miranda began helping with #SavetheSenioras in October when the program received funding from the COVID-19 Equity Project. She says the collaboration helps them get important information regarding COVID to residents that typically don’t leave their home.
“When we drop off we’ll just let them know ‘hey aquí ponemos information sobre el coronavirus,’” she says. “And we’ll explain to them what flyers are in there because we have quite a few that we give out.”
Last March, Genoveva Islas, the Executive Director at Cultiva La Salud, and her best friend Marivel Sandoval started Save Las Senioras. Islas says they received an anonymous $10,000 donation and all of that money went to purchasing groceries and cleaning supplies for older women.
“We wanted to help provide as much resources that would protect them from becoming infected by limiting how often they had to leave their homes,” she says.
Islas says they chose to focus on women in the Latinx community because they often do the cooking. But they provide enough food for the entire household.
“And so if this woman happens to live with her husband we would still be doing the same delivery and she would likely still be doing the same food preparation for her family,” Islas says.
Since then they’ve received funding from different COVID-19 initiatives. Marivel Sandoval became the director as the program started to grow. Each month, she calls the participants to find out exactly what they need.
“Anything else that they want,” she says.“If they want beans they want lentejas. They want black beans. Everyone gets a personal bag.”
In order to use the program Sandoval says the Senioras have to be 65 years or older. They get the word out by posting information at local health clinics and other outlets.
“Through Radio Bilingue, through flyers,” she says. “We have a lot of Senioras that we’ve dealt with in the past.”
Every week employees pack the personalized grocery bags and set off to different areas in Fresno County, Sandoval says.
“One week we’ll do the east side,” she says. “One week we do the west side and then one week we’ll do Fresno.”
This week it’s west Fresno County.
Marlen Miranda is now at the home of 65-year-old Raquel Gallegos in Biola. She passes off the three bags of groceries. Gallegos says she heard about the program at her local health clinic.
“I called and got in touch and yeah, they have been able to help and thank God because it’s been a great help,” she says.
Gallegos lives with her husband and son. All three of them have health conditions that put them at a higher risk of contracting COVID so Gallegos says she’s always looking for ways to minimize her risk. And Miranda says she’s noticed many of the Senioras she delivers to are taking good precautions.
“It’s really nice too, like I’ve seen some Senioras when we drop off the food, the groceries they disinfect them before they bring them in,” she says.
The program currently assists over 200 women with monthly groceries. And Genoveva Islas says it’s received more funding from the city to deliver to seniors of all ethnicities and genders in west Fresno.