United Way Innovation: Volunteer-Driven Grocery Delivery

Margaret Moran
Innovation at United Way
3 min readJul 22, 2020
Susan Baer Mears, SDC Volunteer Coordinator, delivers groceries in a volunteer van

When COVID-19 cases were rising on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in March, Jeff Holland looked for a solution. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions were still having to leave their homes to shop for their basic needs, such medication and food, and putting themselves at risk. Holland settled on one idea: a volunteer-based grocery delivery service for older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

To recruit volunteers, Holland formed partnerships with churches on the Shore, with congregants excited to help create Shore Delivery Corps (SDC), a grocery delivery service for high-risk Shore residents.

Right away, Holland realized there were people in need of grocery delivery who could not pay, and he wanted to help them, too. With funding from United Way of the Eastern Shore and the Eastern Shore Community Foundation, Shore Delivery Corps was able to serve people without funds to ensure they remained healthy and food secure through the pandemic. Shore Delivery Corps delivers up to $100 worth of food to individuals at no charge and connects the individual to a mobile food pantry to sustain them through the pandemic.

How it Works:

  • To start, an older person or someone with a pre-existing health condition who is interested in having their groceries delivered places a call to SDC.
  • A volunteer in the remote Call Center answers the phone. The volunteer explains Shore Delivery Corps to the client, verifies their eligibility as “high-risk,” and asks a few intake questions like their address and delivery date. They also find out whether the person can pay or needs free food assistance.
  • The Call Center volunteer lists the participating grocery stores that clients can order from for a SDC delivery.
  • The Call Center volunteer notifies a dispatch volunteer that there’s a client who would like their groceries delivered. Dispatch readies a volunteer to deliver the groceries.
  • The client makes a phone call to their preferred grocery store and gives them their order.
  • The grocery store employee takes their order and payment information over the phone.
  • The grocery store employee shops for the customer and processes the payment.
  • Dispatch sends a Shore Delivery Corps volunteer to retrieve the groceries and deliver them to the client’s home.
Bags of groceries waiting to be picked up by a volunteer

My wife and I were among the first to take advantage of the Shore Delivery Corp and have been very pleased with the services offered… We are in our mid-80s, handicapped, among the most vulnerable to the pandemic, and therefore especially appreciative. We hope the service continues; will continue to be most grateful. Thank you.

- Charles and Sunni L.,Shore Delivery Corps clients

A One-Stop Call Center:

To field incoming calls, Shore Delivery Corps developed a remote Calling Center that allows potential new clients to call one phone number and receive help. Calling Center volunteers can pick up their own phones and immediately work with clients. This system allows people to volunteer without even leaving their homes!

School Meals:

Holland connected with the Northampton County and Accomack schools, which were looking to serve low-income families struggling with food security. SDC started making deliveries to schoolchildren twice a week.

The program has proved to be a massive success; Shore Delivery Corps fielded more than 1,800 calls from residents in need and dispatched over 2,200 deliveries of food between April 1 and June 30, 2020.

If you are looking for food assistance for yourself or someone you know, please visit shoredelivery.org or dial 757–801–9950. (Limited to the Eastern Shore of Virginia)



Margaret Moran
Innovation at United Way

Innovation Journalist at United Way Worldwide. Senior at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.