by Edith Cody-Rice 

During this pandemic, volunteers in our community have stepped forward to grocery shop for their neighbours and vulnerable individuals. The Millstone interviewed Jeff Mills at Carebridge Community Support to ask about Carebridge’s organized  teams of volunteers shoppers who take orders, shop Almonte’s Patrice Independent Grocer’s shelves, check out and drive orders out to be left at the doorstep of those who need assistance. The program has been so successful that Carebridge is talking with Patrice’s about continuing it after the crisis of this pandemic is over.

The program works like this:

  1. Three volunteers are on site at Patrice’s to take telephone orders from 9 am-12 noon Monday to Friday.
  2. Another team of four or more volunteers then takes over to fill the orders from store shelves and take them to a check out at the back of the store.
  3. After the orders are checked out a third team delivers the orders to the doorstep.

There is no charge for this service and the only cost is the actual cost of the groceries.

The program started a month ago and had filled 448 orders up until April 15, the last day for which stats were available. The shoppers sometimes fill over 30 orders per day. Volunteers shop an average of three times per week.

The program is designed to assist those in isolation and the vulnerable. Patrice does have its own online shopping service which takes over in the afternoons for those who prefer the Patrice’s regular pickup  or delivery service. The Carebridge program is specifically designed for the vulnerable and those in isolation although no one has been turned away.

Carleton Place, Smith Falls and Perth have all now turned to Carebridge for assistance in setting up their own volunteer shopping programs.

Volunteer shopper Mireille Asselin, a well known opera singer who moved to Almonte just a month ago, told the Millstone that she has always wanted to volunteer but her busy career requires  her to be away from home much of the year. Now, because of the Covid 19 lock down, her engagements have been cancelled and she saw an opportunity to participate in the community and help out. She answered a call for volunteers on Facebook and was shopping the next day. She has been both an order taker and shopper during the last three weeks and says that she enjoys this experience and also appreciates the opportunity to meet people in the community.

In Carleton place, the Carebridge model operates slightly differently. Each volunteer is  individually connected to the person for whom they are shopping. Carleton Place teams are coordinated by Jerry Flynn and shopping is done at Mitchell’s Independent. There is quite a roster of volunteers who are spread out as much as possible so that this project may continue after the Covid19 crisis has passed.

Tracey Lamb, who is on the board of Carebridge, is a volunteer shopper three days per week in Carleton Place. As in Mississippi Mills, the time period for taking orders is 9 am to 12 pm. The shopper contacts the individual to discuss the shopping list and the order, when ready, is delivered by a team of drivers. Tracey said that she loves this experience, helping those who are unable to get out themselves and who are, in some cases, alone and feeling the isolation. She feels that wonderful connections are made this way.

Tracey Lamb, volunteer shopper in a Paddye Mann mask

Who are your unsung heroes of the pandemic here in Mississippi Mills — the people who continue to work hard to make this extraordinary time easier for all of us? Please send your nominations to millstonenews@gmail.com and we’ll honour the invaluable work they do.

              VOLUNTEER SHOPPERS