BRUNSWICK, Md (WDVM) — The more than 16,000 Dollar General stores across the country are changing their hours in response to the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to help more vulnerable populations and to stock shelves.

On Tuesday morning, Diane Dwyer was one of the first shoppers at the Brunswick, Maryland Dollar General location stocking up her cart before the usual 8 a.m. opening time.

“I understand they opened an hour early for us old people; we do have our advantages,” Dwyer said with a laugh.

According to a district manager, the Brunswick branch manager put in a request to open the store’s doors at 7 a.m. for senior, 55 years and older, to have a full hour to shop through the aisles before crowds come in.

“Most stores that I’ve gone to are just swamped,” explained senior county resident, Cindy Fields, “Everything’s gone so I thought I’d come out early just to see what I could get.”

Moving forward, Dollar General stores across the country will reserve their first hour of operation to seniors, asking customers to plan their shopping around this window.

“We understand that the senior community is one of the most vulnerable to the coronavirus so to be able to allow them an opportunity to shop during less busier times…to be able to let them get in and get the things that they need so they can get home,” explained spokesperson with Dollar General, Crystal Ghassemi.

Dwyer says managers at the store handed her an already packaged bag of groceries including toilet paper and milk. The store, she described, wasn’t too busy as she shopped for more items.

“I think it’s wonderful because well, number one [older adults] can’t go that fast and it’s harder for us to stand in line for an hour,” said Dwyer.

Stores also plan to close an hour earlier for staff to clean and restock the shelves.

Ghassemi explains that Dollar General is actively working with vendors to order additional supplies to meet demands for items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

“The shelves are not completely bare and there’s a lot of stuff in there I can still use. So it would be worth my effort to come here this early,” said Dwyer.

The Brunswick dollar general store plans to continue opening at 7 a.m. for seniors with no scheduled end date.