Hotline available for food, meds

Community Assistance volunteers sprearhead effort to deliver necessities


Nearly a month into the coronavirus crisis and the need for at-home delivery of food and medicine is growing.

But a group of volunteers has developed a program to help meet those needs and keep residents as safe as possible without ever having to leave their homes.

“The big picture is to provide at-home delivery of food and medication to local residents because of the President’s directive to slow the spread of COVID-19 and the Vice President’s message that neighbors should be helping neighbors,” Alan Sullivan, one of the organizations of the Miller and Camden Counties Community Assistance Hotline, said.

Sullivan is a retired Ameren Missouri engineer who worked at Ameren’s Bagnell Dam Plant as a consultant for nearly four decades. He and his family are natives of the Lake area.

The Miller County Health Center and state and national health officials have issued Stay-at-Home orders to help slow the spread of the virus. As a result, most people are taking the situation seriously and aren’t venturing out – especially individuals who might be at a higher risk for contracting the virus.

Sullivan said Camden County officials recently began a similar program using displaced Camden County employees who wanted to preserve their jobs to take phone calls and to deliver food and medications to Camden County residents.

Camden County Emergency Management is operating the program there.

Miller County, however, doesn’t have the same option as Camden County so Sullivan organized about a dozen volunteers to provide the same service.

“I started thinking of that and how we could do that for Miller County as well,” he explained. “The more restricted our travel is, and the more concern there is for the spread of the virus, people want to stay home and stay well. Yet, we all have to eat and take meds.”

The program works like this:

Anyone who is unable or unwilling to travel or who is concerned about contracting the virus can call hotlines for either Miller or Camden counties.

The Hotline numbers are:

Miller County – 573-692-0426

Camden County – 573-346-6145

An operator will fill out a form with appropriate information and any food or medication needs.

If the individual is affiliated with a particular food pantry, arrangements are made with the food pantry for pre-selected food necessities. One of the volunteers then delivers the products and sets the items on the person’s front porch or steps.

“We don’t go into the house, and our volunteers are trained in safe hygiene so we’re minimizing the chance of spreading the virus,” Sullivan explained.

Only non-narcotic medications can be delivered.

Sullivan and other organizers have contacted the various food pantries, pharmacies, grocery stores, and other agencies so they are aware of the effort.

If someone who is not affiliated with a food pantry calls either hotline, volunteers will help make that contact if they are eligible. Otherwise, individuals can place their food or medication orders at any of the Lake-area grocery stores or pharmacies and a volunteer will pick the items up and deliver.

Alcohol and tobacco are not included in the pickup and delivery program. The Community Assistance Hotline program will respect the privacy of individuals and will follow HIPPA rules regarding medications, which are placed in a sealed bag before being delivered.

“This program was created from scratch and we’re still updating procedures so we can be as efficient as possible,” Sullivan said. “The food pantries have been very flexible with their policies and rules because the goal is to help people. We have been able to meet some real needs.”

Here’s what the Hotline program will not do:

•It will not provide transportation, but the group will offer other options by reference.

•It will not deliver alcohol or tobacco.

•It will not provide cash. The Eldon Ministerial Alliance (573-819-7330) is a resource for individuals who don’t have money to pay utilities or buy food or medication. Some restrictions apply.

“The idea is to reduce the number of people in circulation, and certainly at-risk people need to stay home. We’re trying to provide a service. We want to do whatever we need to do to meet peoples’ needs,” Sullivan explained.


Volunteers needed

About a dozen volunteers are staffing phones and making deliveries. However, additional men are needed for deliveries. Sullivan cited safety concerns for allowing women to make deliveries.

Anyone interested will be properly vetted for potential risk issues, and must provide their own transportation. This is strictly a volunteer project and no funds are available for salaries or fuel.

Call Sullivan at 573-692-5413 for details.