Two local programs that use volunteers to grocery shop for seniors and shut-ins have seen an increase in participation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Volunteers from the Scotts Bluff County Volunteer Center shop Tuesday mornings at Main Street Market in Scottsbluff, and a group of volunteers does the same at Fresh Foods in Gering.

Shanna Halstead, director of the volunteer center, said the demand for the service has taken a jump of 12-15 people over the previous week.

“We have volunteers that call approximately 90 people every day, and those numbers are growing with the people at rick staying home,” she said. Volunteers then shop for the orders and Main Street Market delivers them. Precautions are available for the shoppers with gloves and hand sanitizer.

Fresh Foods store manager Mark Osnes said the store has been offering the program since its opening.

“Those that can’t get out and have no means of getting groceries, it’s a great benefit to them,” Osnes said. “And right now where so many people don’t want to get out into the public with everything going on, have a lot of people with illnesses and that type of thing, it helps them so that they don’t have to get out into the public and risk any extra health issues.”

Halstead said Main Street has stayed stocked on most of the items people are requesting.

“Last week we didn’t have much trouble,” she said. “There was a little milk shortage, but we didn’t have much trouble getting everything covered.”

Main Street Market marketing director Susan Wiedeman said it’s important that programs are offered in the community.

“We have a high number of older residents, and a lot of people are homebound,” she said. Wiedeman added that the program is not just for seniors, but for individuals who may have had recent surgery or an injury that might limit their ability to shop for themselves.

Helping at-risk individuals stay at home is important to Halstead.

“I can’t imagine right now in my life not being able to go and do my own shopping,” she said. “I think it gives them peace of mind, plus they form friendships with the gals that call them and the shoppers through the store call them. It’s a way of knowing somebody cares about them and is willing to give their time to help them out.”

Osnes said Fresh Foods is happy to do its part in helping the community.

“We feel like we’re contributing to the community and helping those that can’t get out to do it,” he said. “It’s just another service we provide to the community that we’re happy to be doing.”

More volunteers are always in demand, and Halstead said it speaks to their commitment when volunteers keep offering to help.

“Facing what we’re facing now and they’re still willing to show up and do this, that speaks volumes,” she said, adding that many of the volunteers are 65+ and have chosen to stay at home. “In times of crisis, humanity is usually the first thing to go out the window and we haven’t seen that at all. We’ve seen people stepping up.”

To request the shopping services, contact the volunteer center at 308-632-3736 or Fresh Foods at 308-633-2901.

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Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at

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