Tom Olson: Volunteer Driver for P2P's Door2Door Food Delivery Program
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact lower Fairfield County in March of 2020, Tom Olson, a resident of Weston, wanted to help. An active volunteer with other organizations, Tom searched online for ways to help during the pandemic and learned about a unique volunteer opportunity at P2P. P2P's newly created Door2Door food delivery program was in need of drivers to deliver essential food from our pantries to elderly, sick, disabled, and otherwise homebound individuals in our area. Tom made a call to P2P and got involved right away and began volunteering every Wednesday and Thursday, delivering bags of fresh, nutritious groceries to those in need throughout lower Fairfield County.
How did you get involved with P2P's Door2Door delivery program?
I have been retired for about ten years and have always looked for opportunities to give back. I teach at Wilton's Continuing Ed. program and Umpire boys baseball and girls softball, but the most rewarding volunteering has been teaching women English at the Mercy Learning Center in Bridgeport. When the pandemic closed the school down, I looked for new opportunities to give, while remaining safe. I reached out to Meals on Wheels and Person to Person. Fortunately, they both needed contactless grocery delivery drivers.
What is the most rewarding thing about volunteering?
I have lived a very blessed life. I've been married for over 50 years. I have two happily married daughters and four beautiful grandchildren. I've tried to always live by the motto, "to whom much is given, much is required." The idea that I'm doing even a little to give back makes me very happy. Ironically I feel I get more than I give.
How have you witnessed the program helping clients?
I have volunteered for well-run organizations, and some not so much. Person to Person is right up there with the best. The support they give volunteers is amazing. P2P helps their clients with the obvious things like food, but I think the subtle support you give just by being there is just as important. I deliver food to people who don't have the means to get their own groceries. I can't imagine how isolating that must feel. Just stopping by wishing them to "have a great day" and to "stay safe' may be the only outside contact they get all week.
Is there a particular experience with a client that stands out?
A great example of the support P2P gives volunteers is the following: I was delivering groceries to a housing complex in Norwalk, and I couldn't identify the client's house. I called her, and we were unable to communicate. She couldn't understand me, and I couldn't even recognize what language she was speaking. I called the designated supervisor, and she conferenced me and the client to her. Speaking with the client, she identified her language as a Haitian Creole, and then she added a fourth person to the conference call who spoke Haitian Creole and English. Through her help, our client got her groceries - and I got amazed.
In another case where the client and I had trouble communicating, she spoke only Spanish, and I speak almost no Spanish. She came out of her house, saw the groceries, touched her heart, and pointed to God. I get choked up just thinking about it.
What do you think is important for other people to know about the problems people are experiencing right now?
My understanding of this problem is it is not a problem of people of color. It is a problem rooted in privileged white people. I want to do my part to bridge the gap. If my delivering groceries helps in even a little way, I will be satisfied. I said the other day: I'm trying to bridge the gap one bag of groceries at a time.
To get involved in our Door2Door program, or learn about other volunteer opportunities, please email Juri Garone.