Mayor’s Message: Supporting our senior and at-risk residents

In this week's column, guest writer Committeewoman Julie DeLaurentis discusses ways to continue reaching out to senior population

Committeewoman Julie DeLaurentis

Today we hear from Committeewoman, Julie DeLaurentis, again. After 20-plus years volunteering in the community on various boards, we asked her to step up and run for Township Committee in 2017. Her presence on our leadership team has been impactful and her column here highlights another example why:

“How can I help?”

This is one of the most frequently asked questions since the start of the pandemic. As I outlined in my recent column, our “Happening in the Hill” communication platform has played a key role in keeping our community informed. 

We are using multiple communication channels to connect with our residents and provide regular updates. Most (all except The Sun!) of these channels are exclusively digital – email, Facebook, online/web, and even text messaging. Unfortunately, there are a number of residents that are not proficient with a computer or a mobile device. Not surprisingly, the majority of these residents tend to be from our senior population. 

In the early days of COVID-19 we were informed that the virus is most harmful to people over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions. As the liaison to our 55-plus Active Adult group, the board informed me that a significant number of people 65-plus don’t use a computer/internet or have a mobile phone. Knowing this, I along with Committeeman Adam Wingate, utilized our communication platform to encourage residents to let us know about anyone they knew in town that may be at risk. 

A special online form was created along with a dedicated phone number as a way to efficiently share information with our team. With the support of several community groups, we have identified more than 400 senior and disabled residents that are getting the help they need. 

Our team of volunteers calls consistently to check in on each resident. We also have a group of drivers that pick-up essentials for those seniors that require additional assistance. Captain Brian Bartholomew, Harrison Township Office of Emergency Management Coordinator, has been instrumental in the rollout and ongoing implementation of the Outreach Program for Seniors and Disabled. 

If you are interested in helping out with this program, you can email me directly at jdelaurentis@harrisontwp.us. If you would like to be added to our Harrison Township Outreach call list or know someone that may need help, please go to https://harrisontwp.us/covid-19-resources-for-residents/ or call (856) 478-6839, ext. 1606.

Finally, we encourage residents with special medical needs to register with the New Jersey Register Ready Program. The information you provide will be shared with emergency response agencies so that responders will be better equipped to serve registrants in the event of an emergency or evacuation in their area. No one else will have access to the information. You can quickly register by going to: https://www13.state.nj.us/SpecialNeeds/Signin?ReturnUrl=%2fSpecialNeeds%2 or by dialing 2-1-1 for assistance with your registration.

Taking care of our seniors and at-risk residents reflects the compassion, generosity and giving spirit of our truly special community. It is yet another way we continue to be Harrison Strong.