RideConnect’s Shop & Drop Spells Help and Friendship During Pandemic

Long-lasting connections well beyond COVID
RideConnect Shop & Drop spells help + friendship

It was a month into their RideConnect Shop & Drop volunteer engagement Ilene and Randy found a single bright pink peony left on the porch.

It was sitting alongside payment for groceries they were delivering a senior who loves to garden. And a woman who, during the COVID crisis, cannot leave home for groceries.

Long-time Westchester residents Ilene and Randy Scharringhausen were connected with her a month prior after seeking volunteer opportunities to help during the pandemic.

The husband and wife pair now spend a few hours each week coordinating grocery lists, shopping, and delivering supplies to senior residents across the County who have been confined to their homes due to the virus. They also deliver meals for the local foodbank.

“We have our health and love doing things for seniors,” says Randy, a financial services executive. “We wanted to do something during COVID to help out.”

Ilene and Randy Scharringhausen, Shop & Drop Volunteers

Ilene, a fine jewelry designer, has a 90-year-old mother living in South Florida. “It’s hard not being with her,” says Ilene. Luckily, she has great local support. “So, we are paying it forward. Doing for Westchester seniors what Floridians are doing for my mom – and others – elsewhere.”

Beyond their shopping and delivery commitments, it’s Ilene’s attention to detail that endeared her to the seniors they shop for. “I ask for everything, from the brands they prefer to the softness of the bread or ripeness of the bananas” she says. “I’ll call from the store if they’re out of something on the list to find a substitute. I want them to feel as normal as possible and have exactly what they want during such stressful times.”

For one senior who requested brownies, Ilene included a treat: vanilla ice cream. “Randy would never eat a brownie without vanilla ice cream,” she said. “I thought she might enjoy it too!”

Both can envision a day when coronavirus is in the rearview mirror. And part of that vision is to continue as RideConnect volunteers. They also believe some of their seniors will stay in touch, as they’ve created a bond, even behind the mask and gloves.

“We’ve become part of their support system”, says Ilene, much like others are to her mom. “Even from afar, we’ve gotten to know each other. I think the connections will last well beyond COVID.”

“I’m going to miss our phone calls,” one senior remarked. Some have left flowers, carefully watered and wrapped. Others left handwritten notes. Randy added, “Last week, when RideConnect added gift certificates to the deliveries, one woman started to cry as she waved from her window.”

It is clear the Shop & Drop program – and volunteers like Ilene and Randy – are a real blessing for seniors.

To volunteer or to inquire about receiving grocery deliveries, email Karen Ganis at kganis@fsw.org for details.