By George Capsis
As I wrote in the April issue, the response of the new President and Chief Operating Officer of D’Agostino, Bob James, regarding the creation of a program to address the needs of West Village seniors (many living in rent stabilized or rent controlled apartments with only, after rent, the remains of a social security check to pay for medications and food) was and is remarkable. In my half a century in the business world I have never experienced anything like it.
But it continues…
Mark Erson, the pastor of the Christopher Street St. John’s Church, emailed the following, “I would love to talk with you more about this. In a nutshell—we would recruit and train ‘personal shoppers’ who would take shopping lists and buy groceries at more reasonably priced stores for West Village residents who cannot afford shop-ping at stores like Mrs. Green’s. The resident would only pay for the groceries purchased for them. We would raise money to pay the shoppers. WV residents would get more food for their buying buck and the shoppers who we train and manage would have employment opportunities. There are a lot of logistics to work out, but I see this as helping two populations at the same time, helping to build relationships within the community, and a campaign that brings together com-munity members to fight the greed that is tearing our neighborhoods apart.”
A phone conferenced followed and D’Agostino head Bob James wrote “I feel invigorated by our shared commitment to this greater cause and have increased confidence that we can make a difference in the lives of many in the West Village.”
Now, readers, go back and read what Pastor Erson wrote—his personal shoppers will shop the cheapest supermarkets and those right now are Western Beef or Trader Joe’s not D’Agostino.
It is near impossible to believe that this Dag Senior Savor program is not just a way to build sales in the experimental Washing-ton and Bethune store, but reading the Bob James emails to the people and organizations who have offered to join the program makes it clear that is exactly what he is doing.
But there is something very special about this personal shopper program.
Pastor Mark Erson welcomes LGBT young adults who are alienated from their families and neighborhoods. They congregate on the Christopher Street Hudson River Park benches in loose supportive groups, and flow freely in and out of St. John’s with nothing to do and absolutely no income.
Now imagine a housebound woman in her eighties who has not been out of her four-flights-up apartment nor spoken to another human for days. The doorbell rings and a young person greets her by name, asking what shopping she needs done.
When that young person returns with groceries and feels the waves of gratitude, he or she will know it is genuine and will receive much more than is given.