Slowed down by COVID restrictions, Easthampton’s new senior manager is eager to ramp up

EASTHAMPTON — When Cynthia “Cindy” Tarail was hired as director of the Council on Aging, the Council on Aging and Enrichment Center was beginning to open its doors to in-person programs and activities to the public.

Two months later, the center building closed to the public for group activities due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Although there is always a transition period when taking on a new position, trying to navigate a world of continued uncertainty can be difficult.

“With a more compromised population, both those we serve and staff, trying to spread important information and keep people safe while ensuring people get the services they need – it’s is like another job on top of a job for everyone in the public service,” Tarail said. “It takes me longer to do the things that I originally planned to do.

Tarail took on the role of director in October after former council director Brendan Rogers stepped down to take on a transport management role with Riverside Industries, a nonprofit in Easthampton that runs a host of programs helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live full lives.

Tarail, a native of Brooklyn, New York, holds a bachelor’s degree in social and economic geography from Vassar College and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Connecticut. Prior to the Easthampton Council on Aging, she worked for over five years in fundraising and public relations at Cancer Connection in Northampton.

In previous roles, Tarail has been a case manager at Highland Valley Elder Services in Northampton, working with at-risk older people and protective services, and has experience in the early years field as a manager of the nonprofit Building Bright Futures in Brattleboro. , Vermont.

Tarail said she decided to move into a position that would bring her back to social and community work where she felt she could make a difference. As she settles into her role, she hopes to build more community partnerships, improve how Council on Aging clients are served, and make better use of limited resources.

At this time, the building is still closed to the public for group activities due to the high number of COVID-19 cases and will remain so until February. Highland Valley Elder Services take-out meals, usually distributed by ACO staff and volunteers, are also not available until February 28 due to cold weather.

Staff will continue to provide services by phone and online. Services with in-person components, such as fuel assistance, will be performed with higher quality masks and open windows, Tarail said.

The Serving Health Information Needs for Everyone (SHINE) program, a state program that provides free health insurance information, advice, and assistance to Massachusetts residents with Medicare and their caregivers, will also continue with an online service. person on an individual basis. . Complimentary AARP tax preparation services will also be provided by participants who file and collect documents; call the COA at 413-527-6151 to schedule an appointment. Special arrangements can be made for residents with reduced mobility.

With such a focus on day-to-day matters, Tarail said she hasn’t had much time to focus on future programming, but hopes to offer cooking classes at some point. She would also like to be able to offer trips through the Friends group or the Council on Aging, whether it’s a hike on Mount Tom or out of town.

At this point, she aims to restart classes and in-person activities in early March. More specific dates will be considered by mid-February. One activity that has been significantly delayed since Tarail started is a “coffee meeting with the new manager,” she said.

“Because we couldn’t get together, we couldn’t even have a simple coffee to talk about people’s interests or the shortcomings of our service,” she said. Nevertheless, she enjoys the new role. “I love this job,” she said. “Staff and volunteers are incredibly dedicated. It really is a great place to work.

Tarail said she plans to keep her promise once warmer weather arrives for a “meet me” on a bike path outing.

In the meantime, the Council on Aging is active on its Facebook page: Easthampton Council On Aging & Enrichment Center, although its old website has just been closed. The information is now available online at easthamptonma.gov/413/3461/Council-on-Aging. Although the page is still under construction, it will eventually include all of the programming and activities offered at the center, as well as resources and information on transportation, the fitness center, and local and social services.

Emily Thurlow can be contacted at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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