It was a simple suggestion on Facebook that spread like wildfire, leading to a lifeline for the Ekuphumleni Old Age Home in Zwide.
Last week, the home was in a perilous position – it had just one cup of porridge left to feed the 60 elderly residents.
The home, fully subsidised by the Eastern Cape Department of Social Development, said the dire situation was a result of non-payment by the department – something the department disputed.
For one Bay resident, Juan Titus, the blame game was futile.
What was important, he wrote on Facebook in response to The Herald’s report, were the starving pensioners who could not take their chronic medication on an empty stomach.
Titus, 42, wrote his comment on Friday when The Herald posted the story to Facebook – and it received a flurry of support.
Very soon, Titus and other Bay residents came up with a plan to meet on Saturday morning at the Pick n Pay Hypermarket in William Moffett Expressway to buy supplies before heading to the home.
“The constitution clearly states that the elderly need to be taken care of,” Titus said. “Their rights have been infringed and the PE community came together to assist.
“We had so many people donating food after the post I put on the page. We had friends from our biking community also donating things that the home needed.”
Another resident, Jackie Webster, 42, said she was passionate about charity work and believed the elderly needed protection.
“The whole community came together. It was the result of this one Facebook post,” Webster said.
“We’ve been doing work like this for the past two years and we’ve seen how the elderly are so easily forgotten [with] no one to care for them, relying mostly on their monthly subsidies.”
Sherene van Zyl, 44, said prisoners were treated better than the elderly, receiving free meals, warm beds and access to medicine.
She said she became involved as she believed that if more people stood together, it could make a difference.
“Children, old people and animals are neglected, and badly. We need to stand together and help those who have nothing,” she said.
“When I saw the Facebook post it gave me an opportunity to do my bit. You don’t have to spend hundreds – buying toothpaste is more than enough.”
Hairdresser Carmen Ruiters, 34, came up with an innovative way to bring in much-needed donations for the home.
She asked her customers to donate 10kg packets of rice or mealie meal in return for a free haircut and blow-dry.
“My customers have been overwhelmingly supportive, donating more than expected.
“We have a list of what the home needs and we’re planning to donate food every first week of the month,” Ruiters said.
Wheelchair-bound Ekuphumleni resident Caitlyn Gxoyiya, 61, said she was overwhelmed by the response and residents were delighted to have their first proper meal, on Friday, since last Wednesday.
“I have diabetes and taking my treatment was difficult. Now we have food and toiletries and we are grateful to everyone who came to see and support us,” Gxoyiya said.
Ekuphumleni manager Mike Tfietso, 43, said he was very happy the public had stepped in to help.
“We have received food that will last us for the next two months. Our elderly people are smiling. We are truly thankful for each and every donation,” Tfietso said.