A volunteer for Utah Valley COVID-19 Rescue shops at the grocery store.

More than a month ago John Lindsey, a senior at Brigham Young University, read a BBC News story about college kids delivering groceries to elderly and at-risk people in their neighborhoods. Days later, Lindsey and two friends launched Utah Valley COVID-19 Rescue, an army of volunteers shopping for and delivering groceries to anyone who needs or wants the service.

“The response has been amazing. So many people want to help,” said John Lindsey. Classes at most universities were canceled by the second week in March, leaving healthy students suddenly with free time and looking for ways to help. The UV COVID-19 Rescue team has advertised heavily on social media platforms, the United Way website, the 2-on-1 Helpline, and they’ve posted flyers in senior communities and low-income housing areas in Utah and Salt Lake Counties. “We want to get the word out that this service is free and people who are concerned about going out can get the help they need,” explained Lindsey.

Delivery requests can be made online at uvcovidrescue.org or by calling 801-598-3993 and providing a name, phone number, address, and shopping list. A member of the leadership team puts the delivery request on a Slack [online] posting where all 100 volunteers can see it and one of them takes the job. Every UV COVID-19 Rescue delivery volunteer follows strict guidelines to protect their health and the health of the recipient. Grocery bags are placed six feet from the recipient’s front door and each item is taken out and wiped down, the bags are wiped down, and the items are placed back in the bag. Recipients reimburse the delivery volunteers through Venmo or Apple Pay and sometimes by check. Lindsey has been working with banks to be able to accept credit and debit cards over the phone as well.

“It’s hard for the elderly to go shopping under normal circumstances, so this is a great option for them. This is for everyone, though – people who are sick, pregnant women, working parents, even people who just don’t feel like going out,” said Heather Nielsen, a volunteer for UV COVID-19 Rescue. “It’s cool to see the way people react – they’re so grateful. I was feeling helpless and it’s nice to be able to serve those who need it,” Nielsen continued.

John Lindsey and his team plan to continue providing free grocery deliveries as long as people need it. “We’re adjusting and learning very quickly. The leadership team is amazing – everything has been running really smoothly,” said Lindsey. 

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