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Grocery delivery workers, volunteers run errands for the vulnerable amid pandemic



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Groceries and supplies given by the South Central Community Action Program's Thriving Connections are loaded into the back of a car ready to be delivered to families in need. Consumers use delivery services like Shipt and Instacart to avoid visiting shops and other places where it's easy to spread the coronavirus. Courtesy Photo

His days start at 6 a.m., when he starts taking orders through the apps.

Ian Halliday, 18, started working for the Instacart, a grocery delivery company in January. In late February, he started working for Shipt as well, less than a month before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. He averaged around 8 orders a day then. Now, he completes anywhere from 10 to 15 orders a day.

After sleeping in for a couple more hours, he jumps in the car and drives to the requested store. Most of his orders come from Shipt and require him to go to Target, where masks are provided to Shipt drivers every morning. 

Certain products, like cleaning products and flour are out of stock, but other products, like toilet paper and paper towels, are starting to reappear. Stores are becoming better-stocked overall, he said.

Many consumers during the pandemic are choosing to have others shop for them, avoiding stores where it is hard to social distance and easy to spread the coronavirus.

Whether it is through grocery delivery companies such as Instacart or Shipt, volunteer organizations or an individual taking requests, people in Monroe County are catering to peoples’ supply needs and taking extra measures to do it safely.

Monroe County resident Emily Miles, 23, a podcast producer at IU’s Media School, offers grocery pickup and delivery service through the Area 10 Agency on Aging, a volunteer group that provides services for senior citizens, and the Monroe County Area Mutual Aid for COVID-19 facebook group.

She said she started in late March after receiving her first request. She has received about 4 since, some from Area 10 and some who found her through the Facebook group.

When shopping for Area 10 clients, she receives a grocery list. She drives to the address, straps on a mask, picks up whatever form of payment they want her to use and asks for any additional information. Then she drives to the store of the client’s choice and combs through the aisles. 

Miles said she uses Cardinal Spirits hand sanitizer liberally when delivering. When she arrives at the house, she uses no-contact delivery by leaving it on the porch. 

Requests through the Facebook page can be different. She received one anonymous request from someone who needed money assistance for groceries. She went ahead and paid for it. She dropped them off but never saw the person. Miles said there are benefits to leaving the process anonymous.

“In a lot of difficult, collective moments, there’s so much attention drawn to the narrative of ‘this person was in need’ and ‘this person was the hero’,” she said. “I think that’s gross. I think we should be helping as more of a way of life.”

Monroe County resident Katie Rodriguez, 38, offers grocery pickup and delivery services through the Facebook group as well. She said she has only had a couple requests, but she believes getting groceries for others not only helps the people who need the groceries but also the whole community.

“If one person can get things for several people, then you’re cutting down on the number of people who are out there,” Rodriguez said.

It’s a risk shopping for others, but Rodriquez thinks it’s worth it.

“I knew going into this time period that I would have to weigh my risks and know what I could do to take care of myself but also not let that keep me from taking care of others who may be less able to take care of themselves,” Rodriguez said.

Halliday uses hand sanitizer before and after coming out of the store and before and after the delivery. When loading the groceries into the car, he places them on towels that he usually washes twice a day.

“Maybe they'll help keep it clean,” he said.

When he arrives at the address, he leaves the groceries on the porch, knocks on the door and lets the customer know through the app the delivery is complete. 

The delivery is contactless, but sometimes people surprise him. Some customers wave through the window or even hold up a sign that reads “Thank you.”

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