Store to Door – Week 14

Where I Went:
Store to Door is a non-profit organization that shops, delivers, and puts away groceries for seniors and disabled residents living in Portland. Stadium Fred Meyer in Northwest Portland sets aside an area of their store specifically for Store to Door transactions. 
Volunteers make up the main workforce in this organization. On Tuesdays, volunteers take grocery orders by phone. Helpers arrive on Wednesday and Thursday mornings to shop for the orders. Participants having passed a criminal background check collect the filled orders, make deliveries, and put away the groceries the same afternoon.
Store to Door pays Fred Meyer for the grocery items up front. The customer then reimburses Store to Door and pays a delivery charge totaling 10% of the grocery bill. Prescription medications picked up and delivered are not charged a fee.
The following video shows a day in the life of Store to Door:
First Impressions:
This serving opportunity piqued my interest since first finding it on the Hands On Greater Portland project calendar a few months ago. After all, I shop at Fred Meyer every week for my own family – how hard could it be shopping for someone else? The 8:30 am start time prevented me from signing up to help. I couldn’t figure out how to get the kids to school and make it to Northwest Portland on time. 
Last week I decided to contact Cindi, the project coordinator, by email. I told her my situation and asked if I could show up at 9:00 am instead.
“No problem,” Cindi responded, “We just need to know when to have a staff member available to train you. Come when you can on Wednesday and meet me at Checkstand 16.”
Sometimes it takes me a while to derive at a simple solution.
Stadium Fred Meyer is located on Burnside Street, one of Portland’s main thoroughfares. The parking is underground, and luckily, was plentiful at 9:00 in the morning.  I took the escalator marked “Up” and searched for Checkstand 16. 
Checkstand 16 – all the action happens here.
Immediately, I found Cindi. I stashed my belongings under the counter and she handed me a name badge. She called over to fellow staff member, Nancy, and asked her to show me the ropes.
The Job:
Nancy trained me as we shopped for an order together. She asked me to grab a freezer tote, some plastic bags for cold items, a customer shopping list with an order number on top, and a pen. Every item on the list has an aisle number written next to it, a helpful “roadmap” for finding everything. I want that on my personal shopping list! 
One of my shopping lists
If no brand name was specified on the list, we looked for the lowest priced item. Sometimes the brand a customer requested wasn’t available. When this happened, I called the customer and asked if I should substitute the item or skip it all together.
Finishing our first order, we brought the loaded cart back to Checkstand 16. Nancy instructed me to lined up carts by order number, so I found #5 and lined up order #6 behind it. A Fred Meyer employee began scanning items and another set of volunteers prepared for delivery.
Now trained to go it alone, I grabbed the necessary bags, put my name on the list taking shopping responsibility for order number 14, and headed for the first item on the list: two jelly filled doughnuts with powdered sugar on top.
I can navigate through my local Fred Meyer with my eyes closed, but it took me a a few times around the Stadium store before I got comfortable with the layout. Shopping for someone else didn’t prove to be as easy as I thought. My instinct was to look for the brands I was accustomed to buying for my own family. I double checked each time I placed an item in the cart to make sure I purchased what the customer requested. 
Never having met the customer, I still felt some level of intimacy shopping for another person. I admit, I passed judgement about some of the food choices these elderly people made. So many requests for processed food with high sodium and high fructose corn syrup! Could a food snob like me really buy this stuff? 
Yes, I reasoned. If these seniors that are over twice my age want to live the rest of their lives drinking A&W Root Beer and popping Werther’s hard candies, who am I to say anything? Maybe I’ll lighten up on my own food rules when I’m 90.
One of the most requested items
Every order I had on Wednesday required a phone call to the customer because the store didn’t have a requested item. This job became my favorite part of the morning. Each recipient seemed pleased to hear from me and so appreciative of Store to Door. I never did find those jelly doughnuts, but I had a delightful conversation with the woman who asked for them. She decided an apple fritter sounded better anyway.
If you had been in the store that morning, you would have seen someone wearing a Store to Door lanyard on nearly every aisle.  Volunteers of all walks of life helped on Wednesday; quite a few men, some college age kids, a mom with her toddler in tow, and a woman who looked to be about the same age as the people she was shopping for. Everyone passed a friendly nod when passing, but not a lot of chit-chat going on. Volunteers were committed to the shopping task and were eager to complete the orders on time.
When the carts were stacked up by Checkstand 16,
we lined them up by the frozen food.
There were 67 orders that needed to be filled on Wednesday. Cindi prefers to have 20 volunteers so the morning runs smoothly, but that day only 12 arrived and she was short 2 staff members. I said my goodbyes at 11:30 and they were only on order 58. I regretted making another appointment that afternoon. I would have loved to stay until every order was complete. 
I guarantee I’ll help again with Store to Door, especially because it provides a great opportunity to volunteer as a family. I look forward to bringing my girls and having them shop with me. They’ll be pros by the end of summer.
How To Help:
Volunteering with Store to Door the first time, you’ll need to register through the Hands On Greater Portland website. This will ensure there will be a staff member available for training when you arrive. After you’ve been trained, you can show up at Stadium Fred Meyer any Wednesday or Thursday morning. Someone will be at Checkstand 16 as early as 8:30. Donate an hour, or two, or more! Whatever time you can give to shop for others will make quite a few of Portland’s seniors very grateful.

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