Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, community members came together to figure out how to organize volunteers and coordinate efforts to help in many ways.
Seven months in, the Mad River Valley Volunteer Response Team has a pool of about 200 people willing to run errands, shop for groceries, check on neighbors, run to the hardware store and more for people quarantining due to COVID or other issues.
Led by Jessica Tompkins, Waitsfield, the volunteer effort is organized by town with one coordinator for each town and a pool of volunteers for each town.
“When people call or sign up via the google form, their name is sent directly to that town coordinator. The town coordinator hooks the person in need of support to a volunteer,” Tompkins said.
Cory Stephenson is the Moretown coordinator, Marie Schmukal is the Warren coordinator, Sally Kendall is the Waitsfield coordinator and Betsy Jondro is the Fayston coordinator. Kelly Bixby manages the technical end of things, Tompkins manages meetings, the group and its Facebook page while Lynne Barnes takes the calls from people who need help.
“Right now, we’re not seeing a huge demand. When we started, we expected to be inundated although since the recent surge we’ve seen more requests,” Tompkins said.
“Typically, what we’re doing is shopping. We’ve had a few requests to check in on people and have had people reach out about pharmaceuticals. We had someone call about their 3-Squares EBT card now working and wondering if we could help with food,” she added.
Tompkins said a primary goal in organizing the group was to support second-home owners or requests for help from long-term or month(s)-long visitors.
“We’ve had requests to shop for people coming up for a weekend or using an Airbnb, but we do not provide support for those types of rentals,” she said.
In terms of logistics, if people want volunteers to shop for them at Shaw’s, the volunteers come pick up a credit or debit card. At Mehuron’s, volunteers can simply provide the credit or debit card number to the cashiers.
“For some places, like the East Warren Market, we encourage people to call ahead and pay. They can also write a check to the store. And it’s not just limited to groceries. We can stop at Bisbee’s or pick up a turkey at Hadley Gaylord’s. Whatever it takes to make your quarantine more comfortable and make sure you do stay home,” she said.
She emphasized that one of the group’s biggest goals is to make sure people really understand what it means to quarantine. Per the state’s guidelines, it means to stay home for 14 days, in a separate room away from other household members if possible. People can go outside to exercise alone if they are well enough, but can’t go to the post office to check the mail or shop or interact with others. Quarantine is for those people with no symptoms and who were in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or who are returning to Vermont from out of state.
For help with quarantine, call Lynne Barnes at 496-4746 or click on this google doc link: