According to the Minnesota Department of Health, those at the highest risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, include older people and those that have certain underlying health conditions.
After learning this fact, Peyton LaFrenz, a Wayzata High School junior who lives in Plymouth, knew she needed to do something to help. Her plan: Create a free grocery delivery service mean to assist adults 70 and older.
“The idea is to keep those at high risk in their house,” she said.
LaFrenz said she was inspired to start the service, which is called Grocery Gatherers, after shopping for her grandparents who live in the Twin Cities. She said she began thinking about all the grandparents who may not have that same luxury.
“It got me thinking about [grandparents] whose grandkids don’t live close or who aren’t fortunate enough to have a good relationship with their grandkids where they can shop for them. ... So, that’s where the idea was kind of born,” the student said.
LaFrenz quickly got to work launching a website, grocerygatherers.com, and began hiring “gatherers” who believed in her mission. Most of those who have signed on to help so far have been other Wayzata High students, but there have been few who heard about the idea and reached out to ask if they could lend a hand.
“We currently now have eight gatherers, but we’re receiving applications daily,” LaFrenz said. “We’re hoping to be able to serve most of the Twin Cities metro soon.”
Those who would like to utilize the service first visit the website to provide their contact information. A “gatherer” will then contact them to discuss their shopping needs, identity payment preferences for the groceries and then arrange delivery. The “gatherer” will go to the nearest store to shop for the list of items before dropping them off at the agreed-upon time and location.
For the less tech-savvy, LaFrenz said there’s an option to complete the process by phone after filling out the initial online request. For those with a handwritten list, a photo can be taken and sent electronically or the list can be given over the phone.
Safety precautions will be taken by each “gatherer,” LaFrenz said, noting that they will not have any contact with those they are shopping for and people receiving groceries are encouraged to wipe down their delivered boxes, cans and packaging with soap and water or another disinfectant.
Tips will not be taken, but those who’d like to help are asked to donate money to their local food shelf – either by leaving it for their “gatherer” to donate or by visiting grocerygatherers.com and clicking on the “donation” tab. Money donated will go to the food shelf at Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners in Plymouth.
“I’m trying to be optimistic, but my guess is this is going to last and get worse before it gets better, and so I’m kind of bracing myself for [the need for services like this] to drastically increase as people run out of supplies and the virus becomes more prevalent in the Twin Cities area,” LaFrenz said.
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