Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey

What is the name of your team?

Easing Hunger

How long has the team been together

For eight months.

What is your team’s goal/mission?

After Superstorm Sandy, the area we serve in Ocean County, NJ was devastated.  Our agency lost approx. 100 volunteers because they needed to relocate or they were concentrating on rebuilding their own homes and lives.  At the same time, our calls for help increased because they elderly lost their traditional sources of help when their family members moved or their faith communities were unable to provide help.  The most requested service that we were struggling to fill requests for was grocery shopping.  Our traditional way to provide this service is 1 volunteer to 1 client who shops every 2 weeks.  We needed another way to approach this problem and increase our capacity.

What are your team’s activities?

We were fortunate to receive a grant from OceanFirst Foundation and the NJ Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund to purchase 2 computers and begin on-line shopping for the elderly from our office.  The delivery charges were covered by the grant so there was no financial burden on the client.  The Easing Hunger team is now shopping on-line for 3 clients each since it is less time-consuming rather than the 1 to 1 match.  They are able to shop either from our office or from their home.

How were the many volunteers do you have and how were they recruited?

We have 12 volunteers who are assigned to shop for 3 clients each.  We are in the process of recruiting more team members.   They were recruited from email blasts, church/synagogue bulletin blurbs, church/synagogue recruitment efforts and our facebook page.  When our volunteers register, they also put “special skills” on our forms.  We targeted those volunteers who noted they are proficient on computers and also wanted to shop.

Please describe the accomplishments of the team.  Is the team successfully addressing the identified issue(s) or problem(s)?

  • We are performing on-line shopping for 30 clients on a 2 week regular basis.
  • Because of this effort, Shop Rite who has a big on-line presence in our area has become involved with our agency and now sponsors events.
  • The Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund thought this was a great pilot program and would be helpful to other areas affected by disasters.  They have requested a replication guide be sent to them.
  • We presented this program to Kessler Foundation which supports disabled individuals.  They also would like to replicate this model.
  • This program has allowed us to recruit younger, working volunteers since they are able to order on-line from their homes, on weekends or after work.

What challenges have you encountered and how have these been addressed?

  • At first, we were asking for credit card information and using this information when we placed the on-line order.  This was very difficult because credit card numbers wouldn’t be accurate or they would expire.  We now order and have the client pay when delivery is made.
  • Learning curve to have client’s shopping list be accurate and translate to on-line ordering.  Learned we need to be really specific when making the list.
  • Great transition to have volunteers order in our office and then “graduate” to ordering from their homes.    We were able to do this when we no longer required credit card information.
  • Team leader as usual is critical.  Team leader trained new volunteers on computer system, made sure clients were assigned and communicated with Shop Rite when discrepancies in orders arose.

What are some of the lessons you have learned in resolving these challenges?

  • Like any new pilot project this took a lot of staff time to get up and running.  Need to plan for this staff time at start up.
  • The elderly clients were willing to share their credit card information with us after we established credibility and trust.  We initially thought this would be a road block because of fear of scams.
  • Lovely relationships formed between the volunteer on-line shopper and their client even though they never met, just communicated by phone to get shopping list every 2 weeks.    We also provided additional support services to these individuals once volunteers got to know them better and learned their other needs.
  • Strong team leader essential or staff time will be unmanageable.
  • This particular service is unique to our area.  Service would not be hard to replicate for other nonprofits.