Good samaritans have been the shining light in an otherwise dark coronavirus pandemic.
Two high school students, Matt Casertano, 15, and Dhruv Pai, 16, from Maryland started Teens Helping Seniors, a no-contact delivery program that provides the elderly with essential goods.
The program began in late March after the virus started affecting daily routines and “stay-at-home” orders were imposed.
The goal of the program is to help seniors who may have difficulties leaving their homes to get groceries or medication.
The CDC has reported that anyone over 60 and those that are immunocompromised are at a higher risk of catching the novel virus.
It’s a pretty straightforward operation: seniors send over their requests along with an address to Teens Helping Seniors. Volunteers then fulfill the order by picking up the groceries and delivering them. Throughout the whole process, volunteers are required to wear gloves and masks, and must wipe down bags to minimize the spread of infection. They call the customer when they're on their way, and payment is left at the door.
The FAQ page for the program says volunteers are not allowed to take donations, but they can accept gas money. It is strongly encouraged that anyone who wants to “tip” the volunteer contribute to the CDC Foundation instead.
Casertano told PEOPLE that he got the idea for the program after helping his grandparents get groceries following a flu hospitalization last year.
“My grandparents are both living in an apartment building,” he told the publication. “So when this virus came around, I was obviously extremely worried because he’s in a building where he has to be around a lot of people to get anywhere.”
“I know there are a lot of seniors who don’t have any family to fall back on during this time and life must be especially hard for them,” Pai added. “I thought, ‘Maybe there’s a way I could help them as a teen, who is in a lower age risk group for during the coronavirus pandemic.”
The program has been met with massive success. Since its inception, they've onboarded 60 volunteers and fulfilled over 120 requests.
And more keep pouring in each day.
“Everyday we get more and more volunteers and more and more seniors, so we’re expanding exponentially every single day,” Pai shared. “We’re growing really, really fast.”
Not only are they looking for more volunteers in areas where there has been an uptick of requests, but the students even noted that teens in other states have expressed interest in starting local chapters.
““Everyone we know is doing this out of the kindness of their own hearts,” Casertano said. “We want to inspire other teenagers in other parts of the country and around the world to start similar projects.”
Both the teens want their program to change how young people are portrayed in the media during the pandemic.
“One of my personal goals for this organization is to bring the generations together and to really show them that, despite our differences, we can still help each other.”
What started out as a kind idea to help those during an unprecedented situation is turning into an operation that will likely span long after the pandemic is over as “there are still people who physically can’t get groceries for themselves.”
There’s been no-shortage of feel-good stories of teens helping out those in need. Recently, a 12-year-old was championed after she used her spring break to make stylish face masks for healthcare providers. And a teen pilot used his time off from school to fly supplies to hospitals in rural parts of his state.