08/02/09 — Foundation offers help with health expenses

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Foundation offers help with health expenses

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on August 2, 2009 2:00 AM

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Jordan Wiggins, right, is tutored in speech therapy by Mary Hood, a retired teacher during a program at Small World Too day camp. Jordan, 13, suffered hearing loss when he was younger, but through efforts of O'Berry Foundation, received a hearing aid this past year.

In a younger America, the milkman used to arrive in the morning with the day's dairy delivery, doctors made house calls to visit sick patients and grocery stores would pack up an order and bring fresh produce right to the kitchen door.

Customs have changed over the years, and the practice of business-to-customer delivery is rare. But a few pharmacies in Goldsboro are keeping the tradition alive, and for more than 20 years Michael Radford has been making sure Raper Discount Drugs customers get the medications they need to stop their aches, pains, sniffles and coughs.

"My dad did it before I did it, he did it for a long time," Radford said. "I enjoy it, there's a lot of nice people out there. It's nice knowing that you're like the middleman, or some kind of lifeline to them."

Radford took over as the main driver in 1988. He has since launched a photography business on the side. The job is rewarding for many reasons, and the people on his routes are much more than just a name on a pill bottle.

"There are people that I look forward to seeing, some people get stuff every day or every other day. I get to know them, they get to know me," he said. "Not only have I grown up with them, they've grown up with me. A lot of them have become more than customers, they've become my friends. They've seen me get married, have children."

Seeing the store's more regular customers gives him a chance to keep an eye on them, particularly the elderly people on his route. If he hasn't seen one of the regulars in a few weeks, he'll inquire about them, and sometimes even does small chores to help seniors around the house.

"Several of the elderly people, a lot of them will ask me to do things for them," Radford said. "I sometimes carry out trash for them. Any time like that I can help them with anything like that, I don't mind at all."

Delivering medications is an interesting, flexible and rewarding job, but it's a serious one, too. When providing a service to the public, people come to rely on you, Radford said.

"They rely on you to get the medicine they need, so it's nice knowing that you do your part. It's also a big responsibility to know that people depend on you to get them their medicine," he said.

The family-owned and operated Raper Discount Drugs on Wayne Memorial Drive has been shouldering that responsibility for 45 years, and co-owner and manager David Raper, who has worked at the store since he was in high school, says he can't remember a time in his life that the business didn't deliver to customers.

"I would say (delivery is) pretty popular. A lot of people we've had with us for 30 years have had their medicine delivered," Raper said.

The Goldsboro Drug Co. on North Center Street has been offering delivery since that pharmacy opened as well, more than 130 years ago. The store has been in operation since 1870, said pharmacy manager and owner Charles Raynor.

Before the automobile became widespread, the pharmacy employed bicycle riders to make deliveries.

"It's been an expectation, I dare say, at Goldsboro Drug, it's evolved over the years," Raynor said. "I think it's a positive input for the drug store."

Offering the delivery option is an added and sometimes surprising perk for new customers, as well as a boon to returning customers. It's especially helpful for senior citizens who can't drive or who don't have access to a car.

"A lot of your seniors don't drive as much, over younger folks who like to ride," Raynor said.

While many of the deliveries are made to elderly residents who might not be physically able to leave their home to pick up medication, the offered service is also popular with adults of all ages facing hectic work schedules. The convenience attracts a broad market, Raynor said, and the same is true at Raper's store.

"Lots of people like to be able to have it delivered to their work. We have lots of young people who work, and obviously we do have elderly people we deliver to. So really, I would say the whole range of customers," Raper said.

The delivery service brings in and retains business, which helps the pharmacy compete with chain drug stores in Goldsboro, Raper said.

The service isn't without cost, however.

"It's expensive to do it, that's the biggest drawback," Raynor said.

Despite the cost of hiring a delivery driver and the expense of buying gasoline, the owners of Raper Discount Drugs and Goldsboro Drug Co. are confident their stores will continue offering the service to their customers.

"(Stopping delivery) never crossed our minds. As long as there's a need or a desire from our customers, obviously we will," Raper said. "That's one advantage we have over the chain stores."

Raper said his store sends out about 25 to 40 deliveries of medication a day. The store will deliver other items such as drinks or candy, but only if it is attached to a medicine order. They will not deliver other items unless a customer is also ordering medicine, and deliveries are restricted to the Goldsboro city limits -- about six or eight miles, Raper said.

Goldsboro Drug Co. has a $10 minimum purchase for delivery, but will deliver all items free of charge even to places as far as Mar-Mac, Rosewood and Dudley.

The delivery service provides customers with easier access to medication, and something else that's also important -- face to face interaction with another person, and a taste of the past.