Delivering Hope to Seniors in the Northwest Suburbs
The residents of four apartment buildings in Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, and Wheeling always know it’s a good day when Glen Tagansky pays a visit. These residents are eager for the boxes full of fruit, vegetables, bread, and other food he delivers, but are even more hungry for something else he brings: conversation.
The four apartment buildings Glen visits once a month are government-subsidized housing, mostly inhabited by Russian-speaking seniors from Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, and Russia. This past year has been especially difficult for this group, a fact that motivates Glen, who pastors the Russian-speaking church services at The Salvation Army Des Plaines Corps Community Center.
Many of these seniors, a large percentage of them widows who live alone, were already isolated by language barriers and lack of mobility. COVID-19 only exacerbated the issue, especially since the elderly are particularly susceptible to the virus.
“Most of them spend their days home alone,” Glen said. He used to help combat this isolation by leading Bible studies in the apartment buildings on a regular basis. Unfortunately, COVID-19 put an end to those in-person meetings. But Glen was undaunted.
Glen also helps with the Des Plaines corps’ weekly food pantry, and every week he gathers the excess food and takes it to the seniors, usually distributing it outside. He also has a contract with two bakeries and Panera, so his deliveries always include good bread.
“Two weeks ago, I had five huge boxes of food,” Glen said. “I delivered them to two of the buildings. People were very happy.” He uses this as an excuse to check on the seniors he knows from the Bible studies, and to strike up conversations with other residents. He offers to pray with them and explains The Salvation Army’s ministries and social service programs.
Glen also asks about what else these seniors might need. He used to be able to ask a leader in each building who helped him with the Bible studies, but some have gotten so isolated they don’t know about their neighbors’ needs. “Can you imagine?” Glen said. “Not even being in contact with people you share walls with?”
The biggest needs, he’s noticed, aren’t physical. “More than food, they need mental support,” he said, noting that many of them are plagued by fear and loneliness. “I tell them not to worry, encourage them to have hope. I remind them that God loves them. I think they need to know that somebody cares about them.”
The seniors – like Gita in Wheeling, Olga and Lora in Arlington Heights, and Efim in Mount Prospect – are very grateful. These are the residents who helped Glen with the Bible studies before COVID-19 and who now get the word out when he plans to deliver food. “They say, ‘Thank you that you don’t forget us.’” Until the pandemic has passed, these visits offer dozens of weary seniors a needed ray of hope.