I am always excited to find out about undiscovered resources available for seniors in need. When I read about Top Banana, I knew I had to share it in the blog. While the organization currently operates in Maryland and DC only, my hope is that other aspiring entrepeneurs like Top Banana’s founder, Jean Guiffre, will take the ball and carry it to their corner of the world. Guiffre saw a need and sought to meet that need in her community; her drive, creativity and success should be modeled.
Founded in 1982 as a home-based operation that brought groceries to seniors’ homes, Guiffre (a former private investigator, interestingly enough) began the business after discovering her mother’s cabinets were totally bare despite living only a block away from the grocery store. Health problems hindered the short walk to the store, so Guiffre did the shopping for her (and subsequently, five of her mother’s neighbors). Today, after 16 years of running the business from her home, Guiffre’s Top Banana has its own warehouse in an old post office, where two full-time and 11 part-time employees serve 500+ customers.
For many of these Top Banana customers, the delivery person may be the only social contact they have during the week. This is a vitally important connection, especially for those seniors who may be completely on their own without family in the area. Emergency contact information is recorded for each customer, and while the delivery personnel are not medically trained, they have on many occasions made a phone call in a time of need.
I am sure that many adult children and good-hearted neighbors across the country bring an extra shopping list besides their own when they hit the grocery store, picking up a few necessary items for the loved one who is homebound. But in the case of those who are alone, a service like Top Banana is phenomenal. Sometimes family does live nearby, but the elderly individual does not ask for help, as was the case with Jean Guiffre’s mother. Top Banana is a way for that elder to maintain independence, and be sure that they have the food or other miscellaneous items needed.
I commend Jean Guiffre for getting Top Banana off the ground, and I do hope the idea catches on in other neighborhoods… there is undoubtedly a market for it.
- Michelle Seitzer