Volunteer shopping program gets rolling in southern Vermont

Published: Apr. 16, 2020 at 4:26 PM EDT
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A new program in Rutland and Bennington Counties is bringing essential items to the homes of the elderly and those with disabilities.

When many older folks around the region realized it wasn't safe for them to pick their groceries, they called Meals on Wheels, but the volunteer meal service was inundated with calls. That's when officials at the Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging came up with a plan.

"Why don't we have volunteers do grocery shopping and take the people who can cook for themselves off the Meals on Wheels list," said the council's Ellen Green.

There are about two-dozen volunteers assisting around 60 people, all 60-years or older, or with disabilities. Volunteers must apply, learn protocols and have two background checks.

"You reach out to them first and you get the list from them over the phone. Then, I'll go grocery shopping and then I'll let them know I'm on my way. And I'll drop the groceries and the money and the receipt off," said Carolyn Anderson, one of the program's volunteers.

A badge is sent to each volunteer for them to show at grocery stores, proving they are shopping for multiple households. "When they go to the store, if there is any question about why you're buying too many cans of whatever, it's because you're shopping for two people and here's the badge to prove it," Green said.

Volunteers Laura and Zoe Zmurko are shopping for four people. "A lot of them have stayed home for at least the last three weeks, if not more. So, when we do go out, we've been having some pretty hefty grocery runs. It's hard to describe to them how empty the shelves are or how their normal provisions are just not there, so we have to be a little more flexible," Laura said.

Sheila McIntyre read about the program in the local newspaper and recently received her first grocery delivery. "I think it's wonderful that they are willing to do that. I just feel bad that I can't be out helping. But I'm old and I have a cough. It's keeping us all safe, and they're taking a chance just going in the grocery stores," McIntyre said.

"One man that I dropped off groceries for the other day -- actually -- when I looked up, he banged on the window so I could see him, and he had this big sign. He had written 'Thank you!' with like, exclamation points," Anderson said.

The Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging is still looking for volunteers. Call SVCOA at 786-5990 and ask for Ellen Green.

Volunteers Needed! SVCOA's new grocery shopping service to support older Vermonters during the COVID-19 pandemic has...

Posted by Southwestern Vermont Council on Aging on Friday, April 10, 2020

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