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Teen creates grocery delivery service for at-risk seniors during pandemic

High school students are volunteering to help older, immunocompromised residents across seven cities in Oregon.
Two PDX Concierge volunteers purchase groceries for senior citizens in Oregon.
Two PDX Concierge volunteers purchase groceries for senior citizens in Oregon. Courtesy of Neel Jain
/ Source: TODAY

One teenager in Portland, Oregon, is helping high-risk senior citizens around his state to get groceries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Neel Jain, 16, said the idea came to him when he offered to buy groceries for his grandmother.

"She has asthma and she's in the at-risk category, and I was glad to help her shop," he told TODAY Parents. "But then I realized that there are many other people in the community who don't have that family support."

Teenager Neel Jain purchases groceries to deliver to senior citizens in the Portland, Oregon, metropolitan area. Courtesy of Neel Jain

In mid-April, Jain launched PDX Concierge, a shopping and delivery service operated by high school students on a completely volunteer basis. Originally, the service only existed in the Portland metropolitan area, but Jain quickly branched out, recruiting friends and volunteers from schools in several cities. Now, seniors in seven cities in Oregon can reach out to the group for free grocery delivery.

Regina Brody, 73, said the PDX Concierge service has been extremely helpful while she and her husband quarantine in an effort to stay safe from the virus. Her husband has multiple medical conditions and is considered to be in the highest-risk category.

"When I found out about this service ... it was like, 'Oh, what a relief, I can have somebody do the heavy-duty grocery shopping for me,'" said Brody, who has used the service multiple times.

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The drop-off is contactless and simple, according to Jain. Unlike some delivery apps or services, PDX Concierge does not collect any fees or payments for deliveries; recipients only pay for the supplies they order.

"First, someone who wants to have a delivery done will (contact us)," Jain explained. "I or a volunteer go buy the groceries, wearing gloves and masks. The volunteer will call the recipient about 10 minutes before they're at their homes to let them know the total cost of the groceries, (and) the recipient will leave payment at the door."

The grocery deliveries bring necessities like food and toilet paper to the front doors of immunocompromised older people who are avoiding shopping during the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy of Neel Jain

Brody noted that Jain and the other volunteers have been very flexible, calling her in case any substitutions or changes need to be made to her orders.

In addition to supplying older residents with necessary food and supplies, PDX Concierge also adds a personal touch.

"We sometimes write a handwritten card to let them know we're here to help them," Jain said. "After the groceries have been delivered, the volunteer will call the recipient to check in and make sure things are going well."

Jain said the notes are also a way to "encourage (recipients) to keep staying safe."

So far, the service has made approximately 60 deliveries and has many repeat customers.

"People have definitely loved our service," he said. "Every time we deliver, when we drive off I can see the smile on their face. (Recipients have) given us a lot of thank you notes and flowers. You can really see how a small act of kindness can go a long way, and I've built a lot of friendships."

Handwritten notes from Neel Jain and his team of volunteer teenagers are meant to encourage seniors who are self-isolating. Courtesy of Neel Jain

Brody said she's loved the handwritten notes she's received in her orders.

"It was just wonderful," she said. "My husband and I married late and we don’t have children or grandchildren, but if we had any I’d want them to be like Neel. ...

"It just is amazing that they would feel for and think about people our age that are a little bit weaker and more vulnerable and want to help out."

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