When 62-year-old Janine Mai posted on Facebook, asking for suggestions because her usual home-delivery grocery service was completely booked, she had no idea she’d be overwhelmed by the replies.
“What I really found is that my neighbors are just incredible people,” the Castaic resident said. “Because I got so many people who answered me in terms of how to sort of work the delivery system, I was able today to schedule another home delivery.”
As a cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy, Mai has to be really careful about her germ exposure on a normal day. “With something like this, who knows, but I think if I catch this, it will kill me because I just don’t have the ability to fight back.”
So, Mai has been extra cautious, even going as far as to wear gloves to wash every single grocery item that was delivered with a bleach and water solution.
And, she’s not the only one — there are hundreds of Santa Clarita Valley residents who are considered part of the high-risk population and being told to avoid leaving their homes at all costs.
That’s why dozens more are offering to help in whatever way they can, such as Valencia resident Larry Fleischman, who put out a video on social media, offering to deliver groceries to anyone in the SCV, free of charge.
“I thought, ‘I’m able-bodied and can go to the market, so if I can help anybody, then wonderful,’” he said.
Though no one reached out asking for help, Fleischman got a ton of replies from others who volunteered to help him, giving him the idea to instead switch gears. So, he reached out to local advocacy groups in need of donations, then he put out the call for help.
“I got a great response for that,” he said. “I ended up driving around and picking up a number of supplies (from) people’s homes, and they just left their donations on the doorstep.”
He then took the donations he collected, along with some of his own, to Bridge to Home.
When high school juniors Eric Luo and Zoe Monterola began seeing stories like Mai’s of residents scared to go grocery shopping, it didn’t take long for them to get inspired.
With the help of other students in their Global Prep Academy class, the co-founders created Six Feet Supplies, a student-run organization that delivers groceries free of charge.
“We take orders from those who don’t feel confident enough to go shopping for essentials and personally shop and deliver groceries to them … reducing the risk of transmission for these people,” Luo said.
That being said, safety and sanitation are a priority, and those who come in contact with any delivery are trained in the organization’s safety procedures.
“Our biggest thing is wanting to limit item-to-item contact or person-to-person contact for our safety and their safety,” Monterola added. “We’ve tried to cover every single basis (in terms of safety) … I think that’s a very important part because the biggest thing is that we need their trust, and that can be a little bit difficult, especially with the times now.”
Once an order is placed on their website, it doesn’t take long for it to show up on your doorstep, as Newhall resident and retired Saugus High School teacher Patty Stephenson can attest.
“I am a senior with serious health issues, so I’m inside for the duration,” she said, adding that her husband, who usually does the shopping, is away taking care of his sister.
Like many others, Stephenson attempted to order groceries online to no avail. That is until she discovered Six Feet Supplies.
“I thought, ‘Well, what can it hurt,’ so I went to the website and filled (the order form) out, hoping (to get a reply) the next day or so, but within a couple of hours, I heard from Brenda (Kim),” she said. “I mostly needed lots of romaine because my husband has this giant tortoise and I haven’t been able to feed him because I can’t go to the store.”
A short while later, Kim showed up with Stephenson’s order. “She had on a mask and gloves, her mom was out in the car and she put (my bags) on my porch. That was it — I had my groceries.”
Though Stephenson doesn’t usually post on Facebook, she had to share the organization with her friends.
“I just think it’s so amazing that these kids are doing this, and it’s probably for some of them out of their comfort zone, (as) most of our teenagers do not go grocery shopping, but the fact that kids are doing this is great,” she said, later adding, “I think people are recognizing that we need to help each other.”
In just a week, Six Feet Supplies has made approximately 40 deliveries and purchased more than $3,000 worth of groceries.
“In the wake of what’s happening, we wanted to develop a system so people know that there’s help … because nobody should feel as if they’re alone or if they have no help,” Monterola said.
It’s exactly that idea that Mai doesn’t have to do it alone that is what’s stuck with her. “That’s been really touching.”
To contact Larry Fleischman, emai [email protected]. For more information on Six Feet Supplies, visit sixfeetsupplies.com, email [email protected] or call 973-668-7576.