As more and more people are self-isolating at home because of the coronavirus, some kind volunteers in Edmonton are offering to pick up grocery orders for people who may be more vulnerable to COVID-19.
Men in Kilts started offering free grocery delivery two weeks ago with their six-person team.
Lead technician David McCullough said they’ve been working flat-out most days, keeping up with the grocery requests.
Normally, he’s used to cleaning windows and gutters and powerwashing things, but the pandemic called for a change.
“It only felt right that we continue to support the community during these tough times in any way that we can,” he said. “It turned out to be grocery shopping for those unable to come out for themselves.”
Over the last two weeks, Men in Kilts shopped for and delivered groceries for more than 30 people.
“Our main focus right now is those who really can’t get out to the grocery store,” McCullough said. “The immune-compromised, the elderly and the disabled.”
Once the staff get someone’s grocery list, they go shopping and take payment for the groceries via e-transfer, or cash if necessary.
However, they don’t want any payment in return for their time or delivery — their service is free.
Some have tried to pay them, but instead of accepting the money, they’ve asked people to keep their company in mind in the future when someone needs work done. Alternatively, they urge people to donate the tip.
“What we’re saying is, instead of compensating us, make a donation to the Edmonton Food Bank.”
The Men in Kilts team is serious about safety, taking a number of precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
“We’re all wearing rubber gloves. We sanitize our hands regularly and try to limit contact with other people while we’re in the stores,” McCullough said.
“We’ll leave the customers’ groceries on the front step, along with a receipt and any change if they paid cash. We ring the doorbell and then we just walk away.”
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He said it would be helpful if Alberta Health laid out some guidelines for people like him that are trying to help those in need.
“It would at least let us know what we can and cannot do when offering a service like this,” he explained.
“We’re kind of setting our own standards at the moment.”
Another group offering a similar free service is the University of Alberta’s medical students. They launched a website called Bag-Half-Full to help people in need.
“They’re just packed with requests, so that’s really good, but we’re always willing to take more,” volunteer Joseph Kirk explained. “There’s a big group of us, so we can usually get them done pretty quickly.”
He was working in a hospital as a clerk before he and his classmates got pulled out of their placements when the pandemic hit Alberta’s capital.
Kirk said the idea came from two other students who had a desire to help: Inderdeep Mander and Ria Rana.
“They asked if anyone in the class would be willing to volunteer and luckily enough, there was a huge expression of interest… I think over 40 of us are now helping them out.”
On Thursday, the volunteers also decided to start picking up prescriptions for people as well.
“Older adults and people who are immuno-compromised are people who are also needing a lot of pharmaceutical refills,” Kirk said. “They have various medications they take or vitamins they take, so we thought, why not help out in that realm?”
Heather Watson is a mother who has used their service twice now.
“Last week, it happened really fast,” she said. “Within a few hours, my groceries were delivered.
“It was everything that I wanted. No extra charges. It was great.”
Watson had a liver transplant two years ago so her immune system is compromised.
“Using Bag-Half-Full’s service has just been a lifesaver for me in keeping us all healthy and safe,” she said.
“It’s very kind of them to do this and I’m very grateful. It’s a really great service.”
Kirk said the medical students have been receiving a lot of appreciation for their work.
“We get really, really nice thank yous,” he said.
“For me, it’s just nice to feel like I can still help these people who I know need it.”
Kirk encouraged anyone concerned about getting their own groceries to contact Bag-Half-Full.
“Please feel free to reach out and hopefully we can all do this together,” he said.
“It’s tough for everyone to stay inside, but we appreciate it every time someone chooses to social distance, and it’s all working towards that same common goal.”
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