Stephen Pribek likes to go grocery shopping. In fact, not only will he go out shopping for his family, but also for a friend.
Pribek, a retired Batavia City Schools teacher, is a volunteer at Genesee County’s Office For the Aging. For the past 10 months or so he’s been picking up groceries for a senior citizen who can’t quite get out as easily anymore.
“I really look forward to it,” Pribek said during an interview with The Batavian. “It fills a need for both of us. I need to feel productive and he has trouble getting around.”
The “Got Groceries?” program evolved out of a pilot to try out the concept during the pandemic, OFA Director Diana Fox said. While some people had physical issues that limited their ability to shop, many others didn’t feel safe to go out during a virus running rampant or didn’t even have a computer to do online shopping, she said.
“It created a barrier for some people. And so if there was somebody that, maybe they didn't have a caregiver in the area, and they needed some help with getting their things,” Fox said. “We started this with just a couple of people that needed it, then added in one of our staff … And so they connected up.”
The service is not a free grocery program, she said, and clients need to be able to pay for the goods themselves. Volunteers take a gift card issued from the agency, purchase the groceries, provide a receipt to the agency and client, and OFA then bills the client for the items.
Got Groceries? has worked so well that OFA was invited to apply for additional funding to continue and expand it, Fox said. She has applied for three grants, including $88,000 for centralized intake, $16,225 for marketing coordination and $14,464 for the Got Groceries? program.
They are through the Rochester Area Community Foundation’s Muriel H. Marshall Fund for the Aging and are up for approval at Wednesday’s Genesee County Legislature meeting. The request has already been given the nod by both the Human Services and Ways and Means committees.
“There’s no cost to the county,” Fox said. “I don’t anticipate any issue with that.”
There are eight clients currently, each with a different volunteer, for the pilot program. Fox would like to increase that to 20 participants. Volunteers aren’t on the hook for any money, as gift cards are used for the purchases, and the helpers often tack the errand onto when they do their own personal shopping, she said. If anyone is interested in volunteering for this program, contact the OFA at (585) 343-1611.
Pribek’s time so far has been rewarding, he said.
“I ended up being friends with the client; we chat,” Pribek said. “I use a gift card, and I like the way it works out; it seems to run very smooth. And the people at the Office For the Aging are very nice to work with; it seems very well organized.”
Top photo: Got Groceries? connects people having issues with their shopping and volunteers to do it for them. Photo by Howard Owens