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Volunteers needed to run errands for seniors in Windsor County

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/22/2020 9:02:47 PM
Modified: 3/22/2020 9:02:45 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — Like many other nonprofit organizations in the area, the majority of people who volunteer to assist members of the Upper Valley’s elderly population at Senior Solutions are senior citizens themselves.

They’re also part of the age group that is more likely to develop complications from COVID-19.

“These volunteers, most of them need to stay home,” said Joann Erenhouse, community relations director for Senior Solutions, which is one of five Area Agencies on Aging in Vermont and serves senior citizens in Windsor and Windham counties.

But that leaves a void of much-needed volunteers to run errands, pick up groceries and deliver items to homebound Vermonters in their communities. Of the 30 or so volunteers the agency relies on to do these tasks, “probably a good 20 of them are over 60,” Erenhouse said. “It makes sense because who are the retired people? The retired people are the ones who volunteer.”

Many volunteers are in their 70s, and others are in their 80s. There’s even a few in their 90s.

“They’re wonderful people, and it breaks their heart not being able to go visit,” Erenhouse said. In addition to doing errands or bringing people to medical appointments, volunteers also take the time to visit, providing companionship and friendship to other seniors, many of whom live alone.

“They’re unable to drive, they’re unable to get out of the house,” Erenhouse said. “Without the volunteers, these people are pretty much estranged.”

To that end, Senior Solutions is asking less-at-risk members of the community to step up and fill in.

“This is an opportunity for younger, stronger people to join the volunteer force,” Erenhouse said.

Under normal circumstances, volunteers who sign up would be carefully matched with a senior with whom they share common interests with the hope that the pair would develop a friendship. That process is now being accelerated. Volunteers must still be 18 and older and pass a background check.

“In this instance we’re not going to be doing as much matching as, ‘who’s appropriate to do what?’ ” Erenhouse explained. “There are people who love to drive. Maybe they’ll pick up the prescription or groceries and just drop them off to the person.”

Others might be asked to bring seniors to non-coronavirus medical appointments, such as dialysis. Volunteers also can specify whether they would like minimal or no contact with the people they help.

“If somebody is working remotely and they want to volunteer, they can volunteer for one hour a day, one hour a week,” Erenhouse said. “If you just have some spare time where you can run these errands and help people get this basic life support that would be so wonderful.”

Volunteers also can serve as a point of contact for seniors who may be feeling more lonely than usual during this time period.

“It doesn’t take any special training just to be nice and be able to spend some time helping people who can’t help themselves,” Erenhouse said. “I think it’s so wonderful to see how everyone just wants to pitch in and this is a way that people can pitch in without exposing themselves to too much.”

And it can make a huge difference in the lives of senior citizens.

“It gives them a point of contact as a friend, someone they can connect to and that is so important,” Erenhouse said. “We all need friends and when you get older and can’t get yourself out it becomes even more important.”

Editor’s note: To volunteer, call volunteer coordinator Vicki Mastroianni at 802-376-3388 or Senior Solutions helpline at 802-885-2669. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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