While some students sleep in during the school closures, Greg Corn and Kayleen Gowers are out of the house by 7 a.m. That’s when the two Los Altos High School seniors go shopping – but not for themselves.
Corn and Gowers pick up groceries for local residents who have been advised to stay home as much as possible because of a higher risk of complications if they contract the coronavirus. And unlike services like Amazon Fresh and Instacart, the two students don’t charge for delivery.
The rising demand for grocery delivery during the state’s shelter-in-place order led Corn and Gowers to provide the service.
“The idea came from empathizing with those who literally cannot leave their homes,” Gowers said. “I was putting myself in their shoes and imagining how scared and alone some of them may be feeling in a time like this. That’s when the idea of grocery runs came up.”
They first posted a message on the social networking service Nextdoor March 16 and said they received more than 50 responses that day. The next day, they started shopping and now make four to five deliveries per day.
They said ordering is simple: People just fill out a form online that asks for their name and phone number, what items they want and from what stores, and where they would like the groceries delivered. Corn and Gowers connect with them to confirm the orders and drop off the items the next day.
“An unexpected situation has resulted in my working with them three times, and I couldn’t be more pleased,” Los Altos resident Lucie Newcomb said. “They’re speedy, reliable and trustworthy; they go out of their way to make things easy with consistent, polite yet friendly communication.”
Count Los Altos resident Linda Gold, who read about the service on Nextdoor, as another satisfied customer.
“I made out a short shopping list and submitted it to them,” she said. “The very next morning, I think about 9 a.m., they texted and said all my groceries were sitting outside my front door. I couldn’t believe it. They delivered to a complete stranger and didn’t even get paid.”
People pay them for the groceries with cash or check, or digitally through services such as PayPal and Venmo. The students do accept tips, which they said will be donated to One Fair Wage, an emergency fund organization that provides cash assistance to workers whose jobs are compromised due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Corn and Gowers said they are aware of the potential health threat caused by deliveries. From their homes to stores, touching many things along the way and dropping off the groceries, there are many ways in which the virus could be transmitted.
“We’re not in the at-risk population, so we’re not so much worried about ourselves,” Corn said. “Our biggest worry is giving the virus accidentally to the senior citizens. In order to reduce that risk, we’re taking as many precautions as we can to sanitize and make sure we’re delivering them as clean as possible. But there’s always a risk.”
To minimize the risk, the teens said they are diligent in keeping clean and use hand sanitizer every time they enter and exit the store and drop off the groceries. All drop-offs are noncontact; the person receives a text when the groceries arrive.
“Sure, there’s a risk with us touching their groceries, but somebody is going to have to do it,” Corn said. “We want to make sure we’re helping them out as much as possible. It’s better than them leaving the house, so it’s all about minimizing risk.”
Gold appreciates their efforts.
“This is a vital service to some of us that are compromised,” Gold said. “My husband and I are seniors and I get bronchial asthma every year. So, right now, Greg and Kayleen are a lifeline to us. Even their upbeat, positive attitude while texting is like a ray of sunshine.”
Those are the kind of compliments that can’t help but make the students smile at a time when many people are on edge due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s more than just delivering groceries – robots could do that,” Gowers said of their service. “It’s about the human connection and letting people know that we do care about them. Our community is here for them. If we can touch someone’s heart, it makes it all the more worthwhile.”