Sandy McCallum is captain of the Sidney Sendial team

Sandy McCallum is captain of the Sidney Sendial team

Reaching out to seniors in need

The Sendial team of grocery shoppers win the service to seniors award at the 2012 Hearts of the Community Awards on Feb. 16

Each week a roster of volunteers picks up phones and fill out forms on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday.

“It’s for customers who can’t shop for themselves on a regular basis, or are sick,” said Sandy McCallum, captain of the Sidney Thrifty Foods Sendial team. “Teams of shoppers come in the next day.”

It’s a system that keeps less manoeuvrable residents of Sidney in fresh groceries.

Sidney Sendial volunteers are the winners of the Hearts of the Community Award for service to seniors.

With about 110 orders on average per week in Sidney, and quite a few regulars, there appears to be a niche the program fills.

“We’re needed. … We get so many customers who say, ‘I don’t know what I would do without this. I couldn’t stay in my home,’” she said.

Often family members set clients up – whether they are in assisted living or their own homes – with the program that costs $5 added to the grocery bill. Thrifty’s drivers who make the deliveries will often put away the heavy stuff like kitty litter. That’s just one way the Thrifty’s staff help aid the Sendial program.

“All the staff are really helpful. … We do pester the staff a lot,” McCallum said with a grin.

She shares her captaincy with Eleanore Arkesteyn and fellow Hearts winner Judy Beinder.

“I answered an ad in the paper 14 years ago,” McCallum said. Volunteers commit three hours a week. “But we start at 8 a.m. and you just go until you’re done. You could be done at 10:30 or 12:30. Everybody is very committed.”

What’s kept her a part of the volunteer program is the people.

“The people I work with and the people I phone. It’s difficult when people go into care … you feel part of their lives even though it’s just a once-a-week phone call,” she said, tears forming in her eyes. “I feel really good being able to help people and chat to them.”

On occasion, a name or a voice overheard at the doctor’s office or pharmacy will sound familiar and suddenly she’s faced with one of the Sendial clients.

“It’s neat when you do meet them,” McCallum said.

“She has actually gone to people’s houses to help them,” piped in Thrifty’s comptroller Val Berber. Berber is among those who take the order sheets filled out by volunteers and sorts them into routes for the store’s delivery drivers.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody so dedicated and compassionate for shut-ins.”