STAYinTV still serving during pandemic

STAYinTV volunteer Ed Sullack works on a garage door.

Although the novel coronavirus pandemic is in full swing, STAYinTV volunteers are doing what they can to help Villagers.

The group recently announced further temporary changes to programs. In all cases, volunteers will not respond if they have symptoms associated with COVID-19. Clients should do the same if they have symptoms. Masks will be worn when in close proximity, and STAYinTV representatives ask clients do the same.

“The masks themselves don’t protect you much, but they protect others,” Scott Mathot, STAYinTV president, said. “So it’s really out of respect for the other person or persons that you wear the mask, and I think that’s not been a problem. In other words, if you want your leaky faucet fixed, we will come with a mask and we expect you to have a mask. That’s been going pretty (well).”

Mathot met with the group via Zoom earlier this month and pushed for STAYinTV to begin opening back up.

“Some people on our executive committee are real concerned about starting back up and meeting and yet at the same time it seemed to me we might be able to loosen up a little bit on home maintenance, maybe even on rides, as long as precautions are made using masks and just social distancing and things like that,” Mathot said. “So from that viewpoint I was trying to jump-start us a little bit back into regular activity. If we were at 25 percent maybe in the next weeks or so we may be up to 50.”

Volunteers in the home maintenance program initially responded to emergency calls, but now additional quick-resolution requests — such as a smoke detector beeping and water leaks — can be handled.

“We would still like to put those very simple calls that aren’t necessary to be done right away like hanging a large picture, something a person wouldn’t be able to probably do by themselves, and we’ve done some of those, but those are the ones we’re trying to put off,” Fred Gibson, home maintenance coordinator, said. “The ones we’re saying we can do might be more like smoke alarm beeping that is driving you crazy and needs to be taken care of or otherwise a person might be finding a way to shut it off so we try to get it back in operation.”

Home maintenance in the past has gotten up to 25 calls per month. Gibson said the dropoff has not been as large as he thought it would be with the pandemic, reaching around the mid-teens to low 20s.

“Our goal is to help people with small maintenance items that they no longer can do for themselves, yet wanting to keep it small so that we’re not taking jobs from contractors,” Gibson said. “We’re taking the nuisance jobs that they’re not going to really want to do.”

The rides program continues on a limited basis. Volunteers respond at their discretion.

The grocery shopping and errands program is the same as rides.

“A lot of our normal riders are going to adult day care centers,” Chris Garner, rides coordinator, said. “Until those centers open again, and I don’t know is it going to be a week, a month, I don’t know. We’re up and providing rides as requested, we’re just not getting many requests. I would expect we could get back to the five to eight a week without the day care things opening, but I don’t know when they’re going to reopen.”

Before COVID-19, requests were coming at 10-15 per week.

“The drivers are expected to wear a mask the whole time,” Garner said. “We’re asking our riders to wear a mask the whole time in the car, to also use hand sanitizer before they get in the car either time, at either end of the trip. So hand sanitizer and face masks.”

The respite care for caregivers program is continuing on a limited basis but is welcoming new clients and coordinators will be available for evaluations.

STAYinTV aims to help Villagers remain in their home as long as possible. For more information, visit or call 865-458-7084.

“The idea here was not to save people money or anything, it was the convenience,” Mathot said. “It was getting little things done, little rides, short rides, without having to get a contractor in there to do a five-minute job or a taxi ride to go into Lenoir City or those kind of things. Now respite care is really more of a function of skills and I suppose they could go to like The Neighborhood or some other kind of place, but this is more — it’s true of everything — but it was more of neighbor helping neighbor.”

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