Paxton IGA has had some special helpers delivering groceries around the area.

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Paxton-Buckley-Loda teachers help their students, but they’re also helping the community in other ways.

They have volunteered to deliver groceries to the community.

It was the idea of Emily Wood, art and graphic design teacher at PBL High School.

“Emily texted me March 17 and said ‘Hey Craig! Jimm mentioned today about needing volunteers to delivery groceries. I am willing to do that. I can even send an email out to staff if you need more. Just keep me posted!’ said Craig Riecks, the owner of Paxton’s IGA store.

“I said ‘Yes!!’”

Wood gives credit to Riecks.

“The original idea was IGA owner, Craig Riecks’. He mentioned the idea to Jimm Wood, my father-in-law and one of the pastors at HOPE Vineyard Church in Paxton where Craig also attends.

“Craig liked the idea of teachers doing it, because we are trusted members of the community, and people may recognize us as teachers, just to help the customer feel safe.”

“[I] love it. Teachers sound great, because in most cases the public knows them or at least they figure they’ll be safe because they’re in the public image arena,” Riecks said.

They started March 19, and, so far, they’ve delivered more than 50 loads of groceries, with more than 20 volunteers now helping. There is no particular group doing this, she said. “When the idea first came about I reached out to the entire district for volunteers. We have teachers, administration, para-professionals, and other staff members volunteering from each of our schools. There are a few other community members now helping as well. Including me, we have about 25 volunteers.”

Currently, she said, customers call IGA and the information is given to her. She calls the customer for their order and send that info out to a volunteer. Volunteers then shop and deliver the groceries in Paxton and surrounding communities. Most people placing the orders are elderly or those at-risk, or who may have a health condition that prevents them from shopping safely themselves during the pandemic, she said.

Teachers are natural givers.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but I can assume the motivation is simply coming from a place of wanting to serve and meet a need. Teaching, in general, is a fairly service oriented profession. It was no surprise to me that so many wanted to help. Plus, not to be biased, but PBL has some extremely kind and giving staff members. Although we are all still working from home, our schedule now allows for flexibility, so we are good candidates for this ‘position’. We are really just neighbors helping neighbors,” Wood said. “I really just view this as an opportunity to serve. This is such a strange time in our world. When it all started it was hard to know what to do, but wanting to do something, but how to fill a need for someone, safety. I am simply thankful the opportunity arose to serve.”

They’re still teaching the kids, too.

“Again, I can’t speak for everyone, but I can guess teachers are doing what everyone is doing. Trying their best to take care of their families. Many teachers balancing parenthood, helping their own kids with remote learning, caring for our students the best we can, and planning remote learning for their classes.

“Personally, remote learning takes up the majority of the ‘work day’, but I have used the flexibility to enjoy the outdoors a little more, when it corporates, chatting with my family, and baking bread. Since my husband is working from home as well, we have enjoyed collaborating in creating a couple, with more to come hopefully, fun videos for my students. (at the link https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1WIuKn_S5zL5rsd7p4eXxg?view_as=subscriber) I’ve also helped deliver paper remote learning packets to students.

“Remote Learning is going as well as it can. I appreciate the leadership from our administrators, as I think that has helped this transition go a bit more smoothly. It is tough though. It’s tough not seeing my students everyday. I spend more time with many of them than I do my own husband, so I just miss them. And I miss my co-workers. We are a small community, and co-workers are friends who you just share life with. It’s challenging planning engaging instruction that is only online, but we are all doing our best, and I think our best is pretty dang good. But nothing replaces the day to day conversations you can have with your co-workers and your students. Nothing replaces the laughter and learning that is shared in a classroom. We will all grow through this experience, and hopefully see the positives of the current situation. There is always a glimmer of hope.”

The Paxton IGA Facebook page explains to call the IGA office at 379-3312. Riecks said IGA staff will get their name to Wood, the point person, and she will get the delivery lined up. They’ll call the customer, shop it, work with IGA staff on the tender and deliver it for free.

“It really doesn’t feel like we are doing anything special, just doing our best in an unprecedented time. It has been fun chatting with some of our community members while taking their grocery order! They are all so appreciative of the service!” Wood said.

IGA employees at the store continue to deliver to 10 to 15 customers a week, and the store has waived its $3 charge on those deliveries during this time. “Many of our employees have stretched to keep us with all of the demands the last month,” Riecks said.

He said the store is working its best to keep stocked. “Supervalu, now called UNFI, our wholesaler, has changed procedures once early in their warehouse which helped them get back on normal delivery times. They are implementing another change this next week to help get a variety of items to our store.

“Our people are doing their best and ordering items for every truck. Before the virus we might have half a page of out of stocks on a grocery truck. Now it’s 13 pages.”

Riecks said, “I’d love to have people in different communities that are doing their shopping for the week that could coordinate two or three people in that same community. That way we could do areas like Buckley and Roberts and Cissna Park.”

He said IGA has also started curbside and it is averaging 20 per day, and half of those are emailing their order. That helps tremendously, he said, because they are not on the phone for those orders. The email address is paxigacurb@gmail.com and the service is free.

“It’s a challenge to keep up with daily responsibilities. Without the teachers help and some additional employees we hired — 73 employees currently, we would not be taking care of the customer like we want to take care of them.”