During this desperate time of pandemic we send our warmest greetings from H.E.L.P. and hope you are all staying safe and well. Who could have ever imagined that in our lifetime anything could occur that would bring the world as we know it to a standstill.
Although the U.S. death rate during the 2017-18 flu season was a record 61,099, the deadliest in forty years, the number of deaths in the U.S. from the covid-19 virus by the first week of June 2020 had vastly surpassed that number with 107,765 deaths, with an additional 24,000-46,000 deaths attributed to the current seasonal flu. Of course, the biggest fear in the present pandemic is from the fact that there is no known drug to combat the virus, no immunity to it, and currently no vaccine. Likewise, it is contagious even when the carrier experiences no symptoms, so we are battling an invisible opponent. This experience reminds us again of the crucial importance of continued medical research and the great importance of getting regular vaccinations.
In our national efforts to contain the corona virus, all of our lives have changed, as businesses have closed down and many people remain sequestered in their homes. Here at H.E.L.P. we have changed gears completely and for the past three months have been focusing on providing essential services to seniors. When all of the local cities had to close their senior centers and consequently terminated their breakfast and/or lunch programs, many seniors were left isolated in their homes without daily food provision. H.E.L.P. was able to support meal delivery to those impacted seniors by supporting those agencies that have meal programs in place, working with Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, and the local YMCAs, along with local cities and much needed funding provided by Los Angeles County.
The provider of hot meals for the South Bay area, St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, was able to continue meal preparation but no longer had the available volunteers to bring the meals to the South Bay. H.E.L.P. was able to step in with our H.E.L.P. van, generously donated many years ago by Toyota Motor Co., and drive down to L.A. each morning to load up the meals and deliver them back to the South Bay, where volunteers distribute them to individual seniors in their homes. In response to dwindling volunteer numbers, more recently the team was able to switch to the preparation of frozen meals so that a week of meals could be delivered once a week for seniors to heat at home, instead of daily deliveries. We have special admiration for the Meals on Wheels program, which has been a longtime provider of meals for seniors, but their services are especially needed now. We are so grateful to the wonderful volunteers who are willing to leave the safety of their homes to help provide for our seniors.
Although our H.E.L.P. office door is locked to walk-in consultations and our community classes had to be cancelled, we continue to operate with a reduced in-office staff and others working from home, to take phone calls and provide seniors and their families with needed counseling and guidance during this difficult time. We had to postpone our annual Fundraiser from June 5, and have rescheduled it for Friday evening, October 2, with the hope that by then the dangers of the virus will have passed and we can come together to celebrate a brighter future. If that is not feasible, we will plan on a virtual gathering.
With the delay of our fundraiser we continue to look to our supporters for your financial help in keeping our programs and services available to seniors and their families. We encourage those who are able, to help sustain us during this desperate financial time. Thank you for your support.