The year of Covid, 2020, wreaked havoc on small businesses/organizations. “Weathering the Storm” will profile local businesses in an attempt to celebrate survival and the promise of calmer seas on the horizon. We ask about the enormous challenges they faced, how businesses adapted, what the future holds, and ultimately how, as a community, we may help them rise above the tides.

Driver Trish Medeiros with COA Director Lisa Hooper and COA Board President Ed Bell

In March of 2020, the Council on Aging closed its Senior Center due to mandates from Governor Baker and the State Department of Public Health. The results were devastating. The COA lost many friends, patrons, volunteers, and employees. At the time of the shutdown, the COA was in the midst of a long-overdue server upgrade. The ensuing “technological deficit,” left many seniors in the dark, according to COA Executive Director Lisa Hooper.

“The staff was unable to provide new programming, and many seniors who didn’t have computers or cellphones were nearly impossible to reach,” recalled Hooper.

DPH regulations for transportation and grocery shopping changed almost daily adding strategic complications.

“It became difficult to transport our participants to medical appointments and to ensure seniors had adequate food supplies,” said Hooper.

In order to immediately address the growing food insecurities during COVID-19, the COA developed several new food delivery programs to meet seniors’ immediate needs.

“Teaming up with Crosby’s to provide a volunteer grocery shopping and delivery program for medically compromised, or isolated seniors. From April through Dec 31st, 25 volunteers shopped 925 times for 81 seniors,” Hooper said.

Partnerships with Marblehead Food Pantry, the Rotary Club of Marblehead, and the Marblehead Community Charter Public School (MCCPS) helped to insure weekly deliveries including gift cards, shelf-stable meal bags, and vegetable boxes.

Among the many other concerns were how to keep up with fitness regimes and prevent social isolation. Thanks to the creativity of several fitness instructors, the COA began offering a vast array of weekly Zoom classes including Balance & Mobility, Muscle Conditioning, Osteo Prevention, Parkinson’s, Step it Up, Strength & Stretch, Yoga, Zumba Gold and a dedicated program for Caregivers called Moving, Mindfulness & Avoiding Meltdowns.

In order to meet the immediate needs of seniors, including securing medical transportation, “three staff members worked daily at the office throughout the shutdown,” recalls Hooper.

For the community to understand that the Council on Aging is a “Center for Healthy Aging,” rather than a medical adult day health program or a nursing home is vitally important for continued success.

Prior to COVID-19 this band of volunteers prepared Thanksgiving dinner for COA members

Marblehead Police Lt. Dave Ostrovitz advertising the Senior Citizens Police Academy

“The COA is not fully funded by the town. We rely on the Female Humane Society, State and federal funding, as well as, monetary donations raised by the Friends of the COA to support our programs and services. When we are open, we are always looking for volunteers to assist with several tasks to offset costs for our programs and services,” says Hooper.

For more information on the COA, please visit

For information on how to volunteer, email:

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Originally published on, republished with permission.

The Council on Aging
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