Extraordinary Volunteer: Connie Kramer of Store to Door

Helping seniors and those with disabilities live full, independent lives

By Allison Jones October 23, 2014

Get your tickets to Portland Monthly's 11th annual Light a Fire Awards to join the celebration of the incredible nonprofit community at the Portland Art Museum on October 20.

We often think of volunteers and the people they serve as distinct communities, separated by a line of privilege or ability. Connie Kramer suggests that such lines can be crossed with inspiring results. Blind since her 30s, Kramer served for 18 years on the board of Store to Door, Oregon’s only personalized grocery delivery service for seniors and people living with disabilities—all while receiving her own weekly supply of fresh food and household necessities from the organization’s fleet of volunteers. Thanks to Kramer’s long-standing service and continued fundraising efforts, Store to Door has made more than 130,300 vital deliveries over the past 25 years, and continues to grow. Here, she talks about her commitment to the cause.

How did you first get involved with the organization? I found Store to Door at a resource fair for people living with disabilities in the early ’90s. My husband had been diagnosed with a neurological disease that meant he would have to stop driving, and I am blind, so cars were out for me, too. It took me a while to get used to the idea that we’d be depending on someone else to do our grocery shopping, but I’m so glad they were there when I needed them.

How does a weekly delivery impact the lives of Store to Door clients?  It’s a very empowering service, because you can go into great detail about the fresh produce or specific brands you need, not just check staples off a list. And it’s way more than groceries! Volunteers can keep an eye on medical needs or further assistance for clients who are frailer. My delivery people have often become my friends. When someone stops in and visits for a few minutes every week, it’s hard not to form a bond. 

What sparked your transition from client to board president? I was in my 30s when I started losing my vision—a young mom, still in college. I’d had other plans for my life, but I was thrown into the frightening world of living with a disability. There were people who made that transition easier: people living full, successful lives with disabilities and helping other people. I knew I wanted to be a part of that community, so when I was approached to join the board I didn’t hesitate. It was hard work, but I think every organization should have a client on their board, so they can have an inside look at how they’re operating on the ground.

You still donate and raise funds for Store to Door. What keeps you involved? I want them to survive so they can be there for people. We’re now reaching over 400 clients, but I wish they could help everyone who needs them. 

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