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How Franchises Are Helping Senior Citizens During COVID-19


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Taco John's franchisees Brad Paxton and Mathew Keiser are offering free meals for senior citizens at their restaurants in Kentucky, Iowa and Missouri.

The idea hit Brad Paxton like a ton of bricks. The multi-unit Taco John’s franchisee knew he wanted to help people out during this pandemic, and he also knew that senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable populations. Starting March 18, his stores in Kentucky began offering free meals to any senior citizen in need. People can call ahead and let the restaurant know the number of meals they need, then pick up the food through the drive-thru, no questions asked.

The idea was so well-loved that Paxton and his business partner started offering the same service at their Taco John’s locations in Iowa and Missouri the next day. Paxton and his team have collectively given out more than 1,000 free meals to senior citizens through their five restaurants, averaging about 100 meals per day.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t have the means or ability to be fed right now,” Paxton said. “If there’s something small we can do, then we’re certainly going to do it.”

Paxton’s business partner, Mathew Keiser, then came to him and pitched the idea of suspending payments to themselves for the time being. They talked to their wives and came to the agreement that taking a pay cut was worth it.

“We haven’t been around a real long time in the game, and we don’t have a ton of capital, but we’ve been blessed throughout our lives and a lot of people haven’t,” Paxton said.

In addition to helping out the community, this initiative also provides more drive-thru traffic. It’s helped them maintain labor and kept numbers manageable, and its given employees additional purpose when they come to work.  

“The people who work for us and have been so loyal to us during this time—we’re going to make sure they’re taken care of,” Paxton said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Paxton’s hope is for society to gain a greater appreciation for the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think senior citizens get ignored a lot, and this is something that says we’re paying attention to you,” Paxton said.

Paxton and Keiser have no plans to discontinue the service anytime soon.

“I can understand where people might say this might be a poor business idea,” Paxton said. “They can say what they want. Me and my business partner can definitely look at ourselves in the mirror at the end of the day and say we’re doing everything we can.”

Delivering Groceries to Seniors

Tom McCabe, a multi-unit Junk King franchisee in Connecticut and New York, decided to work with his local food bank to collect and then deliver groceries to elderly citizens stuck at home. McCabe reached out about a week ago to Hillside Food Outreach in Danbury, Connecticut, and offered up his vehicles and employees.

“If you’re an empathetic person, you’re going to want to help [seniors] in any way you can,” McCabe said. “Those are the people who have paved the way for everybody who have come after them.”

McCabe’s Junk King locations are still open and operating, with special attention given to social distancing. They’ve come up with a completely touchless process, where customers can get a virtual estimate by sending a picture, then leaving their items in a specific room, garage, or out on the driveway to be picked up. Employees can take payments over the phone, so there is no face-to-face interaction.

McCabe made a delivery for the food bank on Tuesday, and found out from the director that demand has increased more than 1,000 percent.

“There’s no business, nonprofit or small organization that can handle a 1,000 percent increase in demand, especially when they’re relying on volunteers,” McCabe said. “They’re stretched unbelievably thin and could use any type of help you can offer.”

McCabe’s employees ran with the idea and started coordinating their Junk King pick-ups with food bank donation drop-offs in the same area. During one drop-off, they might deliver to one or three different families with senior citizens on the way to a job.

“There’s an unbelievable sense of satisfaction when you do something for someone and there’s no expectation of getting something back,” McCabe said.

Whether it’s offering up their bright red Junk King trucks for clothing or food drives, or offering to move medical supplies from one hospital to another, McCabe plans to keep working with local nonprofits in the future.

“Without a doubt, this is going to become a piece of the fabric of our culture. We’re not just going to stop this once we get back to ‘normal,’” McCabe said. “These connections made now will be able to point me in the right direction moving forward.”

Letters of Love to Combat Loneliness

Assisted Living Locators, a nationwide senior placement and referral service, partnered with Love For The Elderly, a nonprofit organization that mails handwritten letters to seniors. They plan to mobilize their 130 franchisees in 36 states and the District of Columbia to reach out to families in their communities, asking for handwritten letters to uplift seniors during this pandemic.

“Social distancing has led older adults living in long-term care facilities to be isolated from their loved ones. It’s extremely important to ensure residents are positively engaged and supported during COVID-19,” said Angela Olea, a nurse and Assisted Living Locators CEO and founder in a statement. “We’re asking for kind, handwritten letters to mail to bring comfort to seniors. Just take five minutes and write a letter of love to a stranger.”

They’re also asking parents to encourage their school-age children to write letters, which will give them something fun to do while school is out or being restricted to online study.  

“By writing a letter, your child can connect to these special people and bring a smile to their faces,” Olea said. “It’s a great way to demonstrate the power of inter-generational solidarity during these extraordinary times.”

Before sending your letter, Love For The Elderly has these guidelines:

1. Letters must be legible (large print) and handwritten. No worries if you’re not artistic—make your card as what you’d like to receive.

2. Avoid religion. Please refrain from including anything religious in your letters, such as religious quotes, words like "God," etc.

3. Exclude the date (day, month, and year).

4. Embrace creativity! Recipients love it when the letters are personal. We encourage you to make your letters detailed, thoughtful and heartfelt.

5. Be kind and thoughtful (more than talking about yourself). This is a one-way letter exchange, meaning you will not receive a letter back, so remember that no reciprocation attached is part of the beauty of your act of kindness, and the recipients don’t feel burdened by feeling obligated or being unable to respond.

6. Envelope your letters if you can. If you’re sending more than one letter, leave your enveloped letters unsealed and unstamped and put them in a larger envelope or box to send.

7. Share your act of kindness! On social media, tag #lettersoflove, #lovefortheelderly and #assistedlivinglocators.

8. Send as many cards as you’d like! They accept letters year-round, so there’s no deadline for when you must send them by.

“Letters of Love” can be mailed to:

Love For The Elderly

P. O. Box 24248 

Cleveland, OH 44124 USA 

The CDCWorld Health Organization, as well as the Surgeon General have indicated that there is currently no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is being spread through the mail. 

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Laura MichaelsLaura Michaels is editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is senior editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is restaurants editor at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 

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