By Beth Lawrence


During a time of crisis, the elderly and those at risk can become lost in the shuffle of keeping up with breaking news or looking out for one’s own family.

But some Jackson County organizations and residents are stepping up to make sure that doesn’t happen. They are working to help senior citizens and other vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We serve many who are unable to prepare (for a crisis) because of health, disability and income,” said Patsy Davis, Mountain Projects executive director. Mountain Projects is leading one of the efforts to lend assistance.

COVID-19 seems to disproportionately affect the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and people with some pre-existing conditions.

In the last week, Gov. Roy Cooper and President Donald Trump have declared states of emergency at the state and federal levels. Gov. Cooper canceled schools and issued an executive order prohibiting crowds of 100 or more. The CDC is recommending crowds of no more than 50.

To ensure that the elderly of Jackson County have what they need and not place themselves at unnecessary risk by going out shopping, a number of residents and groups have volunteered to run errands, pick up groceries and prescriptions and offer extra supplies to seniors who may not have the money to stock up in case of a two-week quarantine or while self-isolating.

Mountain Projects is collecting food and other items to help low income seniors. The effort began Monday. They are suggesting donations of care packages for seniors, elderly and the disabled; sugar free and low sodium foods, paper products, nonperishable foods, nutrition drinks and immune enhancing supplements.

Items can be dropped off at 25 Schulman St., Sylva or call 800-627-1548 to arrange a donation or request help.

The Sylva Police Department is partnering with Mountain Projects to support local elderly and disabled residents.

“We’re going to make the Sylva Police Department lobby a collection point for goods and things that people may need,” Police Chief Chris Hatton said.

Anyone dropping off items after hours can use the call button outside the police department’s front door to arrange a donation.

SPD officers have volunteered to pick up prescriptions and distribute items as needed. The department’s efforts would likely be from officers volunteering during their time off.

“What we’re looking at is allowing our elderly and our sick folks to stay home instead of coming out risking their health going into a grocery store and being around people they don’t have to be around,” Hatton said.

Hatton praised his officers for caring about residents and being willing to do whatever they could to help.

Harold’s Supermarket is offering to shop on behalf of residents who are not able to shop or who should not expose themselves to others. Itemized grocery lists and a count of each item can be emailed to or sent by Facebook Messenger to the store’s Facebook account. Include the time the order will be picked up, and store staff will have the items waiting.

LifeWay Community Church has arranged for volunteers to run errands for those considered high risk. For information or to request assistance, email or call 631-9322.

Jackson County Department on Aging has suspended its congregate meals program but is continuing the Meals on Wheels program with an added effort to keep senior residents fed.

They are also serving frozen meals. Seniors receive five frozen, microwavable meals at a time. The department is delivering meals to those who cannot drive, Director Eddie Wells said. 

Staffers are calling senior participants to keep them informed and ask if they need items other than food.

Instructor-led classes at the department are postponed indefinitely. 

The facility is open, with enhanced sanitizing measures, he said. 

A planned Saturday march for Meals on Wheels has been canceled.