IRIS volunteers Joanne Cotter (left), Linda Krantz (middle) and activity co-ordinator Deb Wandler stand before the 80 meals that would usually be served at a monthly seniors’ lunch. Last week, they were picked up or sent out for seniors to eat at home. Photo submitted

Castlegar ‘Grocery Buddies’, Rossland Rotarians helping ensure seniors are stocked up

Volunteers getting groceries to seniors who need them during the COVID-19 outbreak

Community groups in Rossland and Castlegar are stepping up to ensure seniors shut in by COVID-19 have enough food to eat.

The Rossland Rotarians, and Castlegar-based IRIS program (Increasing Recreation Involving Seniors) are both setting up free systems for volunteers to deliver food to seniors.

“I think everyone is thinking it, says IRIS’s co-ordinator, Sandi McCreight. “How are we going to keep our seniors as safe as possible in this time of isolation? Everybody needs groceries.”

Seniors around the world are being told to sequester themselves to limit exposure to the coronavirus. While many stores have added a seniors-only hour of shopping, many still don’t want to have to go out to restock their groceries, medicine or other supplies.

Rotarians in service

In Rossland, the idea came about when local Rotarians saw a need that had to be filled.

“We thought, what do we do about these seniors, who are some of the most vulnerable in this environment?” says Rotarian Mike Ramsey. “We approached Ferraro’s, and they said, yes, we need a volunteer list. And we came up with a list and that’s how it worked.

Rossland seniors in need of a delivery can call Ramsey at 250-362-7787. He, or another volunteer Rotarian will take the list, grab a cardboard box, pick up the groceries and deliver them to the senior.

If the senior doesn’t have an account with Ferraro’s, the volunteer will pay for the groceries in advance and settle with the senior when the food is delivered.

So far a handful of seniors had signed up — when the Rossland News reached Ramsey, he was shopping for a senior. But more are welcome to use the service.

Flyers will be distributed to seniors‘ homes in Rossland to let them know about the service, adds Ramsey.

Castlegar Grocery Buddies

In Castlegar, seniors can call 250-608-0706. Their name will go to a volunteer, or Grocery Buddy, who’ll call the senior, get their list, and pick up and deliver the supplies to the senior’s door.

Seniors don’t have to be infirm or unwell to access the service — it’s for any older person who doesn’t want unnecessary exposure to the virus by being out in public.

SEE: B.C. care homes well equipped to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks: seniors advocate

In both communities, volunteers are taking care to protect themselves and seniors from accidental exposure the the virus.

“I use gloves and a cardboard box when I’m shopping, and I just put the cardboard box down and they can deal with it, so there’s no contact, and social distancing,” says Ramsey.

“The only contact is when the groceries are dropped off,” says McCreight. “The volunteers won’t go into the house. They won’t have any physical contact. It’s just dropping off the groceries.”

IRIS is also re-working its monthly seniors’ lunch. Last week it prepared the food, but instead of getting together for a communal meal, the 80 dishes were picked up or delivered to the seniors’ homes. Where they were delivered to a facility, the meals were dropped off with a single person in the house, who then distributed them to the seniors.

SEE: Connect with your elderly neighbours during COVID-19 crisis

He says it’s an important service for Rossland Rotary to provide.

“Rotary is a service-based organization, and there’s a lot of volunteerism in our community, and it’s a way we can make a contribution for the good of all,” says Ramsey. “We’re available, we have the interest and a network of people, and any way we can make it a better community we will.”

Both organizations’ spokespersons say it’s a service they’ll continue as long as they can.

“These people still have to have food. We’ve got to keep doing this,” says McCreight. “The stricter the rules for the general public, the more at-risk these people will be if we don’t have the supports in place for them.

“We have to stay on this, providing what we can.”

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