Whether it’s an at-risk senior citizen or a stay-at-home mom, COVID-19 has made buying groceries a stressful task for many county residents.
However, the Lebanon Police Department and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office are helping families avoid that next shopping trip by coordinating their Blue Light Delivery and Senior Citizens Awareness Network programs.
“Both programs stand well on their own, and I think they complement each other well when we work together,” Sgt. P.J. Hardy of the Lebanon Police Department said. “SCAN’s visitation portion has been suspended, but they’re still delivering donated food items. Our service is more on the consumer end, where people place an order and we’ll pick it up and deliver to them.”
The police department’s program is open to any Lebanon residents needing pickup and delivery for a paid grocery order, while the sheriff’s office is focused on helping seniors across the county. With the virus expected to increase demand for both programs, the two are sharing resources and information to reach more people.
“We’ve got approximately 132 recipients and are going above and beyond to meet people’s needs right now,” Sgt. Don Witherspoon of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office said. “When the coronavirus became an issue, we suspended our visitation to seniors, but our volunteers have continued to make calls and deliver food items.”
SCAN Director Debbie Pare’ works with Witherspoon to coordinate 32 volunteers through the program, and items are gathered through both donations and grocery trips.
But with groceries across the county short on items, it can be difficult for law enforcement agencies to find what people are asking for.
“Our biggest dilemma right now is that not all grocery stores provide a service where you can call in and pick up, and the ones that can are about seven days behind on delivery,” Hardy said. “One of the governor’s executive orders lifts restrictions on how often trucks can travel, so we’re expecting that to get easier.”
Walmart, Kroger and Publix are among the stores in Lebanon with online delivery options, and as truck routes increase supply Hardy hopes shoppers will stop buying extra groceries and clearing shelves.
He added that local, independent grocers have stocked items larger retailers are struggling to meet demand for.
“Panic buying is another issue I think is cutting into the number of requests we have,” Hardy said. “A lot of supplies people want just aren’t available, and we’re hoping that curbs as the word gets out that there are plenty of supplies for everyone.”
In the meantime, both agencies are staying in touch to determine which program better serves the needs of those who are calling in.
“A lot of our seniors don’t have a credit card or a computer they can use to order groceries online, so when LPD gets calls and it’s a senior they refer them to us,” Witherspoon said. “Whenever we get calls, we’ll find out what they can and can’t cook and whether they have a condition like diabetes, then we determine what we can get for them.”
Blue Light Delivery can be reached at 615-257-6001 ext. 3015, and SCAN can be reached at 615-444-1412 ext. 499.