With the coronavirus pandemic affecting every state in the country, one UA student is offering vital services to those who need them most.
Michael Arundel, a junior majoring in biology on the pre-med track, has started Leave It to Us, a no-fee service that delivers groceries to seniors and people who are immunocompromised.
Leave It to Us operates on a minimal-contact approach where volunteers are required to be “mindful and cognizant” of social distancing guidelines, Arundel said. The organization takes full precaution to maintain sanitation. Volunteers wear gloves and face masks while buying and delivering groceries, use self checkout if it is available, and leave groceries in a safe place designated by the customer.
Arundel said that it all started with him delivering groceries for family friends who did not feel comfortable going out in public. Then, upon the University’s decision to continue the spring semester online, Arundel gathered around 20 of his friends and began work in the Chicagoland area.
Since Arundel posted a Facebook ad for the service, the organization’s publicity has spiked dramatically. Arundel said that even Illinois governor J. B. Pritzker urged people to get into contact with the organization. Over 30 media outlets have interviewed Arundel, including ABC Chicago, AL.com, MSNBC and the Today Show, which heralded him as the “Hero of the Day.”
Arundel, however, doesn’t see himself that way.
“I don’t think we’re heroes; we’re just doing the best we can at this time,” he said.
The Chicago chapter currently has around 70 volunteers, while the organization as a whole has 12 chapters and over 300 volunteers.
“Our goal is to serve as many communities as possible,” Arundel said, noting that he hopes to reach all 50 states.
The second chapter opened in Tuscaloosa in March, and a chapter soon opened in Birmingham as well. Both are currently operational. Recent UA nursing graduate, Ibukun Afon, is the founder of the Birmingham Leave It to Us branch. Afon, a native of Nigeria who works at UAB Hospital, told UA News that he’s passionate about helping people in this crisis and outside of it receive adequate healthcare and nutrition.
“Considering that I have an elderly grandparent myself who I cannot see due to risk of exposure, I figured I’d do what I can in Birmingham to help those in need,” he said in a UA News article. “As a nurse, helping others in need is something that we’re constantly doing, and it’s a natural fit to me to want to serve the community in whatever capacity I can when I’m not at the bedside. It’s a God-given purpose.”
One of the Tuscaloosa chapter coordinators, Lauren Shilling, said that Tuscaloosa currently has around 30 volunteers, but that they are always accepting more.
“I’d like to urge UA students to get into contact with me directly if they want to start a chapter in their own area or join one,” Arundel said.
Those who wish to order groceries from the organization should contact their local coordinator at covidseniorshoppers.com. Volunteers can also contact their local coordinator at covidseniorshoppers.com.
If they are located in Tuscaloosa, contact coordinators Lauren Shilling at 954-540-0856 or Abbie Ray at 205-535-7344. Those wishing to start a chapter in their own area should contact Michael Arundel at 708-289-5252.