With social distancing now a part of the national lexicon, Daniel Gile is doing what he can to bridge the gap.
Gile, store manager at G&W Foods in Iola, spent much of Tuesday delivering groceries to homebound customers unable, or unwilling, to mingle with the shopping crowds.
The delivery service has been a function at G&W for several months, Gile said, but has garnered added attention in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On a typical Tuesday — the main delivery day — Gile makes 10 to 12 stops.
This week’s count was 16, and growing, including new stops in Iola, LaHarpe and Humboldt.
Gile said he’d be willing to deliver on other days if the demand is there.
“It does not affect us at all,” Gile said. “We don’t mind helping them out.”
The service is available for $2 for Iola, Gas and LaHarpe customers. Those who live outside a five-mile radius pay $4 for the service.
Tuesday morning’s trips were for the regular customers, Gile said to a Register reporter who tagged along on his route.
“I try to get to four or five homes at a time,” he said. “If I do them all at once, I’d run the risk of ice cream melting, or hot food getting cold.”
(Hot meals are a part of the delivery service, too.)
“I do know there are people who should not be out,” he continued. “A majority of the people we serve want to get out and shop, but they don’t have a vehicle.”
One customer was recovering from surgery, and was prohibited by his doctors from lifting over five pounds.
Gile said customers come from all manners of backgrounds. “You call us up, tell us what you want, and we’ll take care of it,” he said.
GILE IS on a first-name basis with each of his regulars.
“I try to get to know them on a personal level,” he said, recounting one customer who needed help replacing batteries on an exterior light. “It’s nice to build that relationship with them.”
One such customer is Iolan Leon Butler, who requires use of a walker and has limited opportunity to make it across town to the grocery store.
“This saves me from having to go fight the crowds,” said Butler, one of the first customers to sign up for the delivery service when it was first announced.
Gile has promised to take Butler to the store at some point in the future, once the pandemic concerns have ebbed.
CUSTOMERS simply need to call or email their orders, but be prepared to be specific.
Say, for example, somebody wants corn.
“I’ll ask, ‘OK, do you want canned, frozen or fresh?’” Gile said.
“OK, Best Choice, Del Monte, Libby’s or Always Save” brands?
Once that’s determined, then it boils down to the size of the can, Gile noted.
‘It’s a little tedious, but I’d rather give them what they want than for them to be a little dissatisfied.”
Emails also are accepted.
CORONAVIRUS concerns have meant extra safeguards for Gile and G&W employees.
Employees have increased the frequency of their cleaning assignments, particularly concerning restrooms, shopping carts, registers and other high-traffic areas.
The registers and counters are disinfected as frequently as possible.
Employees also are encouraged to wash their hands frequently.
Like other merchants here and abroad, G&W saw a run of customers over the weekend clear the store out of such things as toilet paper, bottled water and hand sanitizer.
On Tuesday, the traffic returned to more normal levels, although Gile noted more may return after today, when many of those paper and sanitizing products are restocked.
Other than that, Gile monitors recommendations from the state government, and from G&W’s owners to determine if store hours or occupancy rules must change.