Student team delivers during COVID-19 crisis

Editor’s note: Visit the official WesternCOVID-19 website for the latest campus updates.

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Special to Western NewsFourth-year Genetics and Biochemistry student Maximillian Soltysiak has launched the London Volunteer Task Force, a group of student volunteers who shop and deliver groceries for Londoners who have self-quarantined or are at high risk of COVID-19 infection.

A volunteer group of Western students has set up a grocery shop-and-delivery service for Londoners who have self-quarantined or are at high risk of COVID-19 infection.

More than 60 people are primed to help through the London Volunteer Task Force, student organizer Maximillian Soltysiak said. “The idea is to provide a no-contact service and mitigate some of the risks for people who aren’t able to get to the store themselves.”

The idea was inspired by a recent tweet from a Rebecca Mehra, a professional runner who shopped for two elderly strangers after the seniors hailed her from their car in a store parking lot and confessed they were too afraid to enter the store.

That act of kindness made Soltysiak, a fourth-year Genetics and Biochemistry student, realize there were likely a lot of people in the city who lack a network of family, friends or other helpers.

Within hours of setting up the group’s website during the weekend, Soltysiak completed the first delivery: a grocery bag of essentials. “They were extremely grateful,” he said.

The group – initially comprised of his friends – soon expanded to include students from a range of faculties. It’s a reminder, he said, that students are looking beyond their own worries, and looking out for each other and for strangers in the community.

“While it’s a scary and uncertain time, we can also reach out to other people,” Soltysiak said. “It’s just coming from community need and community support.”

How it works:

Those who cannot leave their homes and need essentials can fill out a grocery request form or email london.on.vtf@gmail.com. Grocery runs are limited to less than $100 worth of necessities and personal-hygiene items. A volunteer then gets in touch with the person requesting help and the two of them share contact information and co-ordinate timing.

The volunteer shops for the items, electronically sends a copy of the receipt to both London Volunteer Task Force and the individual and drives to the recipient’s home.

The recipient e-transfers payment to the volunteer, who drops the items off at the doorstep and returns to the car so the recipient can come to the door to bring groceries into the home.

Soltysiak said this service isn’t intended to replace commercial food shop-and-delivery services – the group’s website includes links to The Grocery Guy, Instacart and Walmart Delivery – but to fill holes in existing services until governments and other agencies can make other arrangements.

“We’re hoping to get the ball rolling and help bridge that gap.”