Creating Connections Through Grocery Shopping

Over the past two months as businesses, schools, and nonprofits have shuttered their doors and suspended programs, we’ve all been forced to adapt.  At the Volunteer Center, we’ve used this time to assess our resources and our strengths and we have made huge shifts to meet today’s immediate critical needs. Through this process, we’ve been able to develop creative ways to safely continue providing some of the services that our program participants depend on.

In particular, we’ve chosen to hone in on continuing services for those most vulnerable – our mental health participants and our seniors.

Through our senior programs, we are proud to annually support more than 550 seniors as they age safely in our community and maintain the independence they desire through programs like Helping Hands Senior Home Repair, Matter of Balance, and the Transportation Program. While sheltering in place has been a critically important necessity for community safety, we also recognize that for our senior participants this generated potential new risks as their needs for safe home repair, groceries, and human connection did not subside. Our first step was to establish a phone check-in system with our program participants.

We’ve found these phone calls invaluable for ensuring that seniors know how to access the resources they need while sheltering in place. We also recognize that for some, these calls may be the only personal connection they will receive in a day. From staff brainstorming sessions and senior conversations with more than 150 seniors, the Grocery Shopper Program emerged.

This new program serves the needs of fixed-income seniors age 60+ and health-compromised older adults 55+.  Our Grocery Shopper Program uniquely serves those who can afford the cost of their groceries but can’t visit a grocery store because of the great risk to their health. Seniors are able to specifically request the items they would like purchased.

Through the program, volunteers are recruited, background-checked, and trained to take grocery orders and methods of payment from local seniors. Volunteers then purchase groceries on behalf of the senior and deliver the groceries to their doorstep using social distancing practices. Since this program launched last month it has served 235 people with the help of 45 volunteers who have collectively delivered more than 2,200 bags of groceries.

We love that a natural outgrowth of this program has been the opportunity to help both our volunteers and seniors maintain meaningful connections with one another. We likely all recognize that for our emotional health, finding creative ways to remain connected is so important as we ride the choppy waves of the times we are in.

Volunteers have told us that this project gives them a dose of needed motivation and purpose. Additionally, through a partnership with Ecology Action, some volunteers have chosen to take on their volunteer effort by bike and see this as a way to help the environment while helping others.

Now that the program is successfully underway with a solid base of trained volunteers we are ready to open the door to more seniors and we are ready to invite more volunteers to support the project as well. Fixed-income seniors age 60 or older, or immune-compromised adults 55+ who are vulnerable to COVID-19 can call the Grocery Shopper Hotline to learn more and get connected at 831-427-3435.

Healthy individuals who are interested in volunteering can learn more about the program and can express interest via our online form.

GET SERVICES: If you need services or are a service provider looking to refer a client, connect with us.

GET A VOLUNTEER’S PERSPECTIVE: Our volunteer, Brooke, provides an insider perspective on volunteering as a Grocery Shopper. Meet Brooke.


SUPPORT US: Inspired by our work? Donate to the Grocery Shopper Program.

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