FREEPORT — Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Ingrid van Duivenbode’s career as a physical therapist kept her plenty busy.

Then her job got put on hold, leaving her with the strange feeling of having nothing to do. She channeled that energy first into the “Freeport Friends” program, through which she and about 50 others have called about 2,200 seniors to make sure they’re doing all right and see if they need anything.

Last week brought van Duivenbode another opportunity to lend a remote but reassuring hand: the Freeport Grocery Buddy Program, through which volunteers pick up and deliver groceries to residents older than 65, as well as those with autoimmune challenges. Given that COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, is particularly dangerous for seniors, the service allows them to keep their shelves stocked without risking a trip to the grocery store.

“When the level of stress is really high and people are hurting in the community, it’s nice to see good things happen,” van Duivenbode said. Hearing from one resident with dietary issues who needed items from Royal River Natural Foods, she had the person send a photo of her shopping list, so van Duivenbode could do a pickup and delivery.

Residents interested in the grocery service can call the Town Office at 865-4743 ext. 121 and leave a message with their name and phone number. To pay for items, they can purchase gift cards from Shaw’s or Bow Street Market in $50 increments and share their shopping list with a town employee. A volunteer will pick up the list and prepaid gift cards at the Town Office and arrange with the resident to drop off items. Volunteers can also deliver items that residents have ordered through Bow Street’s Bow2go program.

Those who want to volunteer can call either the Town Office or Melanie Sachs at 299-6825 or [email protected]. The town recommends that those interested be younger than 65 and in good health. More information is available at

Sachs, a former Freeport town councilor running for state House District 48, is coordinating Grocery Buddy volunteers for the town. The program has 32 volunteers and as of last week’s launch had made two deliveries.

“Our next job is to get the word out that this program is here, because many folks may not be connected to social media,” Sachs said.

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