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Volunteers turn out for grandparents in need


More than a dozen volunteers came out on Sunday — and kept their distance — to shop for 12 families struggling through isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, these families consist of grandparents raising grandchildren.

“A lot of times, the grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are left out when it comes to finances. Most of them don’t qualify (for public assistance), because they don’t have legal guardianship of those grandchildren,” said Carmella Harris, founder of Grandparents Raising Their Children’s Children, a local support network. “It’s important for me as the founder of this program to make sure that during this crisis, not only are my grandparents keeping well, but they’re being serviced. They’re getting what they need to get through this crisis.”

Harris noted that the Madison Metropolitan School District is providing lunch for students at sites across the city, but the members of her group don’t always have access to adequate transportation to visit those sites every day.

So she asked 12 families to make lists of what they need, and volunteers spent $200 for each family at Metcalfe’s Market, funded by the Dane County COVID19 Emergency Fund.

“Well $200 don’t go that far,” Harris said. “But we were able to get lots of cereal, milk, toiletries, detergent, briefs, sanitizing diapers, wipes, whatever they needed. If it was in that store, we were able to get it. And I was so blessed that most grandparents got everything that was on their list, believe it or not.”

It didn’t take much to recruit volunteers, said Michael Johnson, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club, which administered the emergency fund. Johnson posted a note on Facebook and that’s about all it took.

“It kind of caught me by surprise,” Johnson said. “There were a couple of 18-year-old boys who, I guess, saw my Facebook post and they just showed up. It was really special.”

Volunteers were given shopping lists, bought the groceries and then delivered them safely to the families.

Anthony Cooper was another who saw the Facebook post and showed up.

“That was phenomenal,” he said. “The main reason why I wanted to get involved is the fact of this is our community, that’s a population that needed the extra assistance, they needed the help,” Cooper said. “Some of those grandmothers don’t have cars. Not only that, but then also they don’t always have the capability to be able to provide for their grandkids. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing and that was just the opportunity to be able to give back.”

Anthony Cooper delivering food to a family in isolation. Photo supplied.

Nichelle Nichols also responded to the call.

“I saw it posted on Facebook. I think I saw Michael share it, and that Ms. Carmella was looking for some volunteers,” Nichols said. “I just figured I’ve been in the house a lot, trying to follow all of the guidelines from CDC and public health, and I figured I didn’t have any symptoms and have not been around anybody, so I figured it would be safe for me to volunteer.”

Nichols said volunteers were careful to keep a safe distance when making the deliveries, but it was a warm experience nonetheless.

“There was a lot of appreciation,” Nichols said.

Johnson said there will be additional opportunities to volunteer and give to support local families in need due to the pandemic and resulting school closures and economic shutdown.

“We’ll be doing that a few more times with different groups,” he said.