LAKE COUNTY, Ohio — Many grocery stores are helping our most vulnerable population during the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing shopping hours specifically for them. But still, many seniors are not able to get out and buy their own groceries.
Now, Lake County officials and local organizations are stepping in to help.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Laketran employees and community members volunteer their time to sort fresh produce, canned and dry food items into bags, put them on Laketran buses, and deliver it all to seniors who need them, like Mary Anne Kelly of Grand River.
“This really, really helps me out,” Kelly said.
She's one of the 400-500 seniors enrolled in Lake County’s In-Home Grocery Delivery program. It's specifically for seniors who can’t get to the store themselves.
“I can’t see to drive. I do not have a car, and it's very difficult for me to see the items that I want to buy,” Kelly said.
Half of the program’s funds come from the county’s senior services levy and the other half is matched by the United Way of Lake County. But most of the manpower comes from Laketran.
Ridership is down, so CEO Ben Capelle is having his staff shift gears to find new ways to serve the community.
“I was on a phone call about what needs the seniors had right now and groceries was a big one. You know, they can’t get out of their house,” Capelle said.
Twice a week volunteers start their day at the Laketran garage in Grand River to put together bags of food for seniors.
Some of the food comes from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, which donates 2,500 pounds of fresh produce every delivery day. The rest is purchased from Marc’s with program funds.
Once the bags are packed, bus drivers step in. Depending on the day, 8 to 15 buses hit the road - making anywhere from 10 to 45 deliveries per bus.
“This isn’t even that much different for us than what we would do on a normal day, because you know, our whole purpose in Lake County is to help people,” Capelle said.
And even though they’re helping Kelly in her time of need, she still wanted to give back by offering a donation to the food bank. That’s because she knows just how much it's needed.
“Our church has a food bank, so I know that they’re always short on money, so I just automatically do it. I mean, I have the money to buy the groceries, it's just getting out and getting them, that’s my hardest part,” Kelly said.
The program is scheduled to run until the stay at home order is lifted at the end of the month. If it's extended, officials will reassess funding to see if the program can continue.
Qualifying seniors must call each week they are in need of groceries. Calls for a Tuesday delivery must be placed prior to 2 p.m. on Monday, and calls for a Thursday delivery must be placed prior to 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
To schedule a delivery, seniors should call 211 in Lake County or the Lake County Council on Aging directly: 440-205-8111