Letter from Staying Put: Use the New ‘Volunteer Shopper Program’


To the residents of New Canaan,

With the cases of coronavirus actively increasing in our town, I am writing to encourage all seniors not to go the grocery store where you could be exposed to this new virus, putting you at higher risk of becoming ill, or where you may be endangering others. Instead, participate in the Volunteer Shopper Program, a partnership between the town and Walter Stewart’s Market. This action is critical to the health and safety of our seniors, but also in the best interest of all town residents. 

The CDC has repeatedly stated that, “Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.” While it is difficult to calculate the number of cases in the United States at this time, early analysis shows that an estimated 60% of victims requiring hospitalization have been adults age 65 and older. 

An important part of our work at Staying Put is providing social activities for seniors. So I recognize that, for some, a trip to the grocery store is a social outing. The store is a welcoming environment and affords an opportunity to see friends. But it is nearly impossible to practice social isolation (standing six feet apart) in the grocery aisle. This means that older shoppers may be unwittingly exposing others to the illness—and vice versa. 

Seniors, please do not go to the grocery store! 

If you have a trusted friend, neighbor or younger relative, please ask them to help you with your shopping. If you don’t have someone to help with your shopping, the town has organized a group of volunteers to do it for you. 

Here’s how the town’s Volunteer Shopper Program works: You prepare a list of essential grocery items you will need for 10-14 days.  The town pairs you up with a volunteer shopper. The volunteer picks up the order, shops for you at Walter Stewart’s during special early morning hours, and then safely delivers the groceries to your doorstep. The volunteer then checks in with you later to help with additional needs, such as the next grocery trip or a pharmacy pick-up. 

Over 250 generous volunteers have signed up to provide this free service for all seniors. To date, fewer than 50 residents have signed on. There are 1,500 residents in our town over the age of 75, most of whom are healthy and robust. If you are among them, you may not think that you should participate in this service. What you may not understand is that the most helpful thing you can do is to stay out of the store. 

At Staying Put, we value our role in helping seniors live independently in the community. This is not a time for independence. Please recognize that, while we are living in a challenging time, this interruption to our daily lives will not be permanent. They say “It takes a Village”—and ours is a very special one. Let’s all do our part to keep it healthy and safe. 

Barb Achenbaum
Executive Director, Staying Put in New Canaan

To learn more about the Volunteer Shopper Program, please call Bethany Zaro at the Town of New Canaan, Department of Human Services at 203-594-3076.

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