Community needs are focus during pandemic

Mountain Empire Older Citizens has made some operational changes during the COVID-19 pandemic but remains committed to providing essential services.

MEOC is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Virginia Department of Health recommendations during this public health crisis. The agency has also sought guidance from the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

Executive Director Michael Wampler stressed that serving the aging population is especially vital now. “We are blessed by the support of the community and are focusing MEOC’s resources on providing services to those individuals with the greatest needs during the pandemic,” he stated.

For example, the number of older persons served by MEOC’s home-delivered meals program has increased nearly 37 percent during the pandemic, from 416 in February to 569 currently, as the agency provides temporary emergency meals service to homebound seniors.

While continuing to serve the community, MEOC is taking heightened measures to protect consumers and staff. Some services and programs are temporarily halted. Preventive measures such as suspension of face-to-face visits in most programs are also being taken.

An operational summary follows.


Key Points

  • Remains fully operational with normal operating hours
  • Fares waived through April 30

MEOC continues to provide essential trips in the community, such as to medical providers, pharmacies, grocery stores and food banks. Transportation is being offered free to the general public through April 30. Transit, which operates a demand-response service, is maintaining its normal operating schedule for now and has increased frequency of its bus sanitization routines during the pandemic. Service is offered Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. As always, MEOC Transit services are for all ages. Call (276) 523-7433 at least 24 hours in advance to schedule a ride.


Key Points

  • Participants visiting clinic for priority medical appointments only
  • Adult day health care suspended
  • Visitor restrictions, screenings at door
  • After-hours coverage intact

The number of participants visiting Mountain Empire Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) has been reduced based on individual needs. Staff is checking on participants regularly, to ensure they have safe shelter, food and necessities. Scheduled medical services are continuing as planned in the delivery of medication or supplies. Home care and transportation to the clinic are being provided as needed. The PACE clinical team remains on alert for patient needs. After-hours coverage remains intact. Visitor restrictions remain in effect. All staff members and participants are screened at the door. For more information, contact Mountain Empire PACE at (276) 523-0599.


Key Points

  • Senior nutrition sites temporarily closed
  • Home-delivered meal service continues

MEOC’s eight senior nutrition sites are closed until further notice. Locations include Big Stone Gap, Coeburn, Pound, Norton, Hiltons, Nickelsville, Jonesville and Pennington Gap. Site participants will still receive nutrition services through the home-delivered meals program, plus socialization via phone and internet.

The home-delivered meals program continues uninterrupted, providing meals for homebound seniors. During the current emergency circumstances, MEOC has been able to temporarily assist more people, increasing the number served by nearly 37 percent.


Key Points

  • Services continue with screening measures
  • Personal care, homemaker and respite services continue with screening measures in place.
  • Caregiver support group meetings have been suspended until further notice.


Key Points

  • Healthy Families conducting virtual and phone visits
  • Children’s Advocacy Center services continue via telehealth
  • KinCare meetings canceled

The Healthy Families program has suspended face-to-face visits during this time but is conducting visits using virtual technology or by phone. Staff will be available by phone Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

The Southwest Virginia Children’s Advocacy Center continues mental health treatment services via telehealth. The center is still receiving referrals. Staff is also available for forensic interviews, considered crisis services requiring immediate response.

KinCare meetings are canceled until further notice.


  • In-person visits suspended
  • Staff continues to make well-check calls to homebound seniors
  • All classes, meetings, support groups canceled until further notice

Advocacy-related services, Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program, Pharmacy Connect of Southwest Virginia, energy assistance and care coordination/options counseling continue by phone and email.

MEOC has also suspended all classes, support groups and other meetings until further notice.


Key Points

  • MEOC Walkathon and Harold Lester Memorial Golf Tournament postponed
  • New dates to be determined

Adhering to federal and state guidance to limit public gatherings, the MEOC Walkathon has been postponed for the first time in its history. The event is the largest fundraiser for the Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly. The walkathon, which marked its 43rd year last spring, has historically taken place the first Sunday in May. Relying solely on donations, the Emergency Fuel Fund provides assistance with heating costs to those age 60 and older in MEOC’s service area. The program runs annually from Nov. 1 to March 31.

MEOC has also postponed the Harold Lester Memorial Golf Tournament usually held in mid-June, a major fundraiser for the Mountain Laurel Cancer Support and Resource Center.

New dates for the events have not been set.