- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2016

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - Once a month for about 13 years, Phyllis Barton has climbed aboard a sheriff’s van at the Housing Authority of Bowling Green and headed to Wal-Mart to shop with her neighbors.

“I get to go shopping when I need groceries,” she said. “Whether I have food stamps or not, it’s helpful.”

Barton is one of several people who take part in the public service provided by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Every second Thursday, any senior citizen who is a resident of the Housing Authority or the Bowling Green Towers can get a ride to the Morgantown Road Wal-Mart to shop for whatever they need. After shopping, the group meets up at McDonald’s inside the store and eats lunch together before returning home.

“It’s very helpful,” said Bobbie Jenkins. “It’s a great way to get out of the house and see somebody you know.”

Jenkins and Sheriff Jerry “Peanuts” Gaines have given each other nicknames. Gaines calls Jenkins “Snoop Dogg” after the rapper who goes by the same name, and Jenkins calls the sheriff “The White Hound.”

“I enjoy going with them, just hanging out with the crew,” Jenkins said.

He was the first to finish his shopping, buying up a bag of fresh fruits and vegetables. Jenkins, 62, doesn’t know how long he’s been participating in the program but estimates it’s been several years.

Gaines has offered the service for nearly three decades.

“These older people don’t get out and this is the only way for them to get somewhere,” Gaines said. “A lot of them go just to eat at McDonald’s.”

For some, “it’s their only way of going and getting groceries,” Gaines said.

Warren County Sheriff’s Office administrative assistant Ouida Anthony often drives her personal vehicle to pick up a couple of folks who have difficulty boarding the van.

“Knowing that you’re helping people that wouldn’t have a way to go, I just love helping people,” Anthony said. “This is rewarding.”

Anthony grew up watching her parents help others and she enjoys also providing a helping hand.

Sgt. Tim Ausbrooks drives the van and said over time he has become attached to the people he takes shopping.

“They tell us every time we take them how appreciative they are,” Ausbrooks said. “The longer you do it, the more you get attached to them.”

When the group returns to their homes, Ausbrooks carries the groceries in for the people who need the help.

Barton, 64, bought a couple of essentials Thursday.

“I live on cottage cheese and V8 (juice) until payday,” she said. “Fresh veggies don’t keep well at my house so I buy V8 and it substitutes.”

Faye Collier, 54, completes her monthly shopping list during the excursion.

“It’s a help to bring you to the store to buy your groceries,” she said of the program.

Faith Cole enjoys getting out of her apartment for a while.

“I’ve been coming for about three years,” she said while eating a sausage McGriddle.

Like the others, Cole doesn’t have a car and said the service is something she truly appreciates.

“If it wasn’t for them, a lot of people would be hurting,” Collier said of the ride program.

Barton and her boyfriend Anthony Neighbors also enjoy a fair amount of “window shopping.”

She likes to look at a variety of items and Neighbors enjoys looking at Hot Wheels cars to add to his collection.

“This is his way of getting out,” Barton said of Neighbors.

Evelyn Shanks doesn’t go shopping every month with the group but when she can’t get a ride to the grocery with a family member, she hops on the van.

“I go when I need to,” she said. “I like this. They’re doing a good deed for everybody. I’m grateful they have the money to do this. I just enjoy being around people and getting out sometimes.”


Information from: Daily News, https://www.bgdailynews.com

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