“COVID-19 forced our retirement community as well as others to adapt and become innovative,” said Milton McGowian, director of culinary at Sharon Towers. “We created a pop-up grocery store and pharmacy for our residents and also made those available to our team members. We wanted to be safe. Residents living independently could no longer shop for themselves, and we didn’t want team members going out shopping at grocery stores because of the risk there.”
McGowian, also a current Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) student specializing in Nonprofit Management and Leadership through Liberty Online University Programs, was challenged by Sharon Towers CEO Anne Moffat to find a solution to team members having to shop for residents, which was too time-consuming and posed a risk to those team members.
The pop-up grocery program launched on March 24 with an electronic form via a link sent to every resident and employee. The form offers hundreds of items in categorized drop-down menus. Residents input their name and address for delivery direct to their apartment, cottage or villa.
The food items come from distributors who sell in bulk and deliver to Sharon Towers. Staff then sort and deliver groceries to residents.
“It’s a win-win situation,” McGowian said. “Residents are happy they don’t have to go out. They order about twice a week. Not only does the new system help limit their exposure, but it helps our team members because they just don’t have the time to shop since they’re working all day. Everyone gets a better price with us because we buy wholesale.”
With Sharon Towers’ fine dining areas closed due to the pandemic, McGowian determined that dishes like lamb chops, filet mignon, and lobster tail could be delivered in vacuum-sealed packaging to preserve the taste.
“The specialty dining system has allowed us to reinvent what we do and tell the residents, ‘If you can’t come to our dining room and enjoy the food, we’re going to bring it to you,’” he said.
In April, McGowian organized a pop-up pharmacy with its own Over-the-Counter Health and Wellness form for ordering and delivery, which is managed by Carmen Murphy, community outreach coordinator.
Regular updates on the campus website keep families informed of the continuation of policies that visitor restrictions apply to the campus, not just buildings, as these types of visits could potentially expose loved ones to COVID-19.
A sink by the main front door which was created by Topper Amerson, owner’s representative, and Cory Stepanski, director of facilities, requires anyone going inside to wash their hands first, and employees are screened for coronavirus symptoms and get their temperature taken every day. Employees and residents showing symptoms of COVID-19 are tested.
“We’re still delivering meals three times a day, and our innovations have allowed us to share best practices with the senior living industry,” said McGowian.
Sharon Towers offers independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing care. Founded in 1969 by Presbyterian leaders in Charlotte, the not-for-profit community is home to approximately 330 residents on a wooded, 28-acre campus on Sharon Road in the heart of SouthPark.