Volunteers deliver groceries and prescriptions to isolated Vancouverites for free
VANCOUVER -- Wearing blue protective gloves and toggling between numerous shopping lists on their smartphones, Shaun Olafson and Leanne Atkinson purposefully searched the aisles of the Independent grocery store in Vancouver's West End.
They were shopping for an asthmatic man in his 40s, who was ordered by his doctor not to leave his apartment while the world is trying to fend-off COVID-19. But the man needed milk, fruit and juice.
Next the couple headed to Costco to fill another request – this one from a single mom in East Vancouver was also running low on food.
Once the buying was done, they delivered the goods for free. Until now, Olafson and Atkinson had never met the people they're helping.
"This feels like the right thing to be doing with our time and our effort," said Olafson.
The idea came to him about two weeks ago while speaking with a friend who works in retail.
"He said somebody's really got to be thinking about the elderly, the immunocompromised, people who are at home right now and can't shop," recalled Olafson.
"Something about that really shot a lightning bolt through me and I thought, 'He's right, something's got to happen here.'"
The Emergency Relief Society of Vancouver was created only a couple of weeks ago and already 60 volunteers have signed up.
"We'll buy the supplies, you pay us back!" the website states.
The team will even pick up prescriptions, but patients must call ahead to give permission, and get an over-the-phone consultation from the pharmacist first.
Volunteers are careful to keep their distance, and deliveries are often dropped off on doorsteps with the front door closed. People show their appreciation through windows.
"There's a lot of mouthing that they're grateful and thankful," said Atkinson.
She recalled one of her more eventful deliveries: "People can social distance, but their pets can't. As soon as I got off the elevator a dog just ran right at me."
The pup was very friendly.
Which bring us to some of the more unusual requests. That same dog owner requested crickets and mealworms for her lizards.
The volunteers are taking the challenges in stride. There are often long lines outside stores, and limits to what they can buy.
"Very frequently we're having discussions with store managers: This is who we are, this what we're doing…" said Olafson. "Thankfully so far they've been very, very helpful."
It's still early in their operation but ERSV is already averaging about 20 deliveries a day.
Thankfully even more volunteers are signing-up to help with the load.
"It really goes to show that even in dark and uncertain times, the best qualities in people can sometimes show through," said a grateful Olafson.