BYU and UVU students start volunteer grocery delivery service

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Utah Valley COVID-19 Rescue (UVR) team leader John Lindsay passes out fliers promoting free grocery delivery services for vulnerable members of the community. (UVR Instagram)

It was mid-March when BYU student John Lindsay contacted a group of friends with the idea of starting a volunteer grocery delivery service.

The volunteer force, named the Utah Valley COVID-19 Rescue (UVR), was created to help vulnerable members of the community who are unable to leave their homes because of COVID-19. UVR has welcomed about 100 volunteers on its team within a month and isn’t planning on slowing down anytime soon. 

The board of directors consists of four college students, two recent graduates and one BYU professor.

Board member Cassidy Shively is a biology major who graduated from BYU this month. She plans to move to Washington, D.C., in the fall, but until then, she is helping to manage the rescue project and make a difference in the community.

“The response has been wonderful, both on the side of collecting and organizing volunteers and from people who’ve needed that help,” Shively said. 

Shively recalled one experience of helping a lady who was blind. She had many service options to choose from but had difficulty accessing their apps because of her visual impairment. UVR’s request process is simple and can be done with a single phone call.  

“She was grateful there was a number she could call and verbally pass on her delivery request,” Shively said.

The team found that many people they serve have limited access to the internet and aren’t active on social media. They discovered the best way to find people needing grocery deliveries was to pass out fliers.

Last Saturday, the team met up and passed out fliers in English and Spanish around neighborhoods where they expected their services would be needed. Around 30 volunteers showed up. The hard work paid off and they were able to get a record number of delivery requests, according to Shively.

The Utah Valley COVID-19 Rescue Board of Directors meets over Zoom to coordinate and discuss plans on their expanding volunteer force. Pictured from top left: John Lindsay, Cassidy Shively, Branton Campbell, Heather Nielson, Massiel Islas, Chris Shelton and Andrew Lindsay. (Cassidy Shively)

Creating meaningful experiences for volunteers

Many volunteers have expressed gratitude to UVR for creating meaningful service opportunities where they can focus their time and efforts.

“With social distancing, it can be difficult to feel connected. We found that the volunteers really love being able to go and help someone they don’t know who is in need,” Shively said.

One individual who was actively seeking opportunities to serve was BYU physics professor Branton Campbell.

He was inspired by his daughter’s involvement with the Salt Lake Valley Mutual Aid Group, another volunteer group that provides basic needs for vulnerable members of the community. Campbell said he wondered if something similar was happening in the Provo area, so he called around to various food banks before stumbling upon the UVR. 

“When I discovered them I asked if there’s anything I can do and they let me join their team,” Campbell said. 

He has been in charge of providing logistical support for the team. One of his major tasks has been trying to get sanitation supplies donated in bulk.

“The volunteers are strict in their sanitation protocols and disinfect the products upon delivery,” Campbell said. “I’m really impressed by how organized and how conscientious they are.”

Tori Willey, a BYU alum from Centerville, Utah, joined the UVR team as a volunteer about three weeks ago. She was also looking for more ways to serve the community.

“I was sewing masks at home, but I felt like I could be doing more,” Willey said. “I saw a news story on Utah Valley COVID-19 Rescue and realized that was exactly what I was looking for.”

Willey got on the website, filled out a registration form and was able to connect on the group’s Slack channel. 

“The leadership was so helpful in getting me started. They’re very responsive and eager to help new volunteers,” Willey said.

Continuing to address a need

UVR recently partnered with Tabitha’s Way, a local food pantry, to help people who need groceries but don’t have the funds to buy them on their own. They are looking into teaming up with other food pantries as well.

Board member Andrew Lindsay graduated from BYU in public health and is currently working towards a master’s degree at the University of Utah. When his classes moved online, he had more time to work on the UVR team.

Lindsay said it’s hard to know how long the pandemic will last, but he can see continued expansion if the need for grocery deliveries remains. For now, the team wants to focus on strengthening the areas they are currently serving.

The group currently delivers groceries to individuals and families in Utah and Salt Lake counties. Requests for deliveries can be made online at uvcovidrescue.org or by calling 801-598-3993.

People interested in volunteering can visit the group’s website and fill out a registration form. They will be invited to join a Slack channel where delivery request notifications are posted. Volunteers are expected to adhere to strict sanitation guidelines and refrain from posting their service activities on social media in order to protect the privacy of those participating in the program. 

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