Elise Richer, a volunteer for Portland’s shopping program, delivers groceries to a recipient. Lexie Grose/Staff Photographer

Portland seniors living in isolation during the stay-at-home order now have a way of getting groceries, with about 60 people volunteering for a city-run program to deliver groceries to their homes.

Earlier this month, Portland’s Office of Elder Affairs organized a volunteer program focused on assisting those over the age of 65 and otherwise unable to safely acquire their own food and supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Linda Weare, the director of the Office of Elder Affairs, volunteer recruitment efforts were met with an overwhelming community response. The program has recruited 60 community volunteers who can obtain groceries for local senior citizens in the coming weeks or months.

“As of Tuesday, 22 people have requested help and have been matched with volunteers,” Weare said. “I ask about their age and situation … but I find that most people are reluctant to ask for help and are truly in need when they do.”

A recipient of the program, Marion Lawson, discovered it through a television commercial. “I called right after seeing the telephone number on my TV, and (Weare) got a volunteer for me within a few days,” Lawson said, “I feel very lucky and very blessed.”

Elise Richer, a Portland native and volunteer for the program, was assigned her recipient last week and made her first delivery Sunday. She applauded Portland’s success in coordinating this community outreach effort and carrying it out so quickly.

“After applying to volunteer, I was sent my match and had to answer right away,” Richer explained, “if I hadn’t, my match would have been assigned to someone else because there were so many volunteers ready to go.”

While many programs and individuals are taking it upon themselves to deliver groceries to those at risk, Portland is one of the few cities in southern Maine to adopt a citywide initiative for a senior grocery delivery program. As of last week, Freeport has implemented a similar program called “Grocery Buddy,” which provides groceries to seniors and those who are immune-compromised.

“It pains me to see what’s going on.” Richer said. “I think like many other nonessential workers, I want to be able to help in some way. My mother lives in Massachusetts, and while she’s independent, I’d like to think that someone would be there to help her if she needed it.”

For more information or to request assistance, contact Weare at 207-541-6620 or [email protected]

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