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Coalition of volunteers to assist elderly considered in parish

VIDALIA — Vidalia officials are organizing a coalition of volunteers to assist elderly or immune-deficient citizens, who are afraid to be out in the public during the COVID-19 threat, with grocery shopping.

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft discussed the possibility of developing the coalition during a Facebook Live video on Tuesday.

“Some of our elderly people are actually scared to go to the store,” he said. “I would like to see if we can get a volunteer group … from 30 to 50 individuals who would volunteer to help our elderly or our shut-ins who can’t get the groceries they need or are scared to go because they don’t want to compromise themselves.”

Craft said he would organize the group with the help of Tim Vanier, the Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, and with other professionals who could guide them on the safest strategies to protect citizens during the operation.

“We would help train them and get them the gloves and other things necessary, teach them what they can do and get a line going where people can call in with a grocery list put together and have (the volunteers) assist them with purchasing those items, whether it’s at the Markets or Walmart or wherever it might be,” Craft said. “We want to make sure that we can help our elderly or those with compromised health who are really, really scared to even go out in public.”

On Wednesday, Craft said he would like to have the operation organized up and running by early next week if possible.

Craft said he discussed best practices with local healthcare professionals and was in the process of setting up procedures to protect the program participants’ financial information.

Craft said those who help would probably be assigned to specific people so they could familiarize themselves with those individuals.

“I don’t think we’ll have any problem getting a group of volunteers together,” Craft said, adding several individuals had contacted him about helping after the live video was posted.

In the video, Craft said all citizens could help keep others safe by limiting the number of people they take with them to the store and by keeping a social distance of 6 feet or more between themselves and others around them whenever they are out and about in public places.