David Luria, the president of the Brandywine Tenants Association, told Forest Hills Connection about a newly organized network of residents who are volunteering to help neighbors with grocery shopping. He told us the organizer of this effort is Ali Webster, who lives at the Brandywine (at 4545 Connecticut Avenue) with her husband and 11-month-old son.
We were intrigued and reached out to Webster to learn more.
Webster, a registered dietitian, told us she has been involved in food and nutrition-oriented volunteer activities throughout her adult life. In her professional life, she leads consumer research and nutrition communication efforts for the International Food Information Council, a nonprofit dedicated to communicate science-based information about nutrition, agriculture and food safety to the public.
Here are her responses to our emailed questions:Why did you decide to organize this volunteer effort? I think that many of us have felt a sense of helplessness over the past few weeks, with our entire world changing so drastically in such a short amount of time. I found myself wondering what I could do for my community, in addition to donating to worthy causes and local small businesses. From my background as a health professional and as someone who’s in the loop about nutrition and food safety as they relate to COVID-19, it was clear to me that vulnerable populations may run into challenges with meeting their needs for food and other essentials while trying to follow advice to stay home and avoid public spaces.
At the same time, my personal situation had changed just like it had for many others. I was now working from home while taking care of our baby boy, whose day care had closed. With more time spent in and around our apartment, it became clear that my immediate environment was home to many people who would be personally impacted or at risk in our current situation. I reached out to our property manager and to David Luria to see if any plans were in place to assist fellow Brandywine residents. After learning that there wasn’t an organized effort to do so, we began collaborating on getting this initiative off the ground.
How many people have signed up? As of March 26th, our Neighbors Helping Neighbors program has 17 volunteers and three residents who have reached out in need of services. We have enough volunteers to manage more residents needing groceries or other errands completed, so I encourage people to reach out if you are in a group deemed to be high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (this includes those who are 65 or older, immunocompromised, have existing health conditions, or need to be in isolation for any other reason, like recent travel to a high-risk country).
Lessons learned? The biggest takeaway I have from this experience is that so much kindness exists within the walls of the Brandywine. Sometimes it can feel difficult to connect with people in large apartment complexes like ours, but witnessing the enthusiasm and generous spirits of our residents is a reminder that there are so many good people everywhere, and that we’re trying to do the best we can to take care of our community. I’m really looking forward to meeting our volunteers and program participants in person in the future!
Webster put together these guidelines for volunteers in the Brandywine. We thought it might be a useful guide for other apartment buildings organizing volunteer networks, and for individuals running errands for others.
Best Practices for Protecting our Neighbors
Thank you for volunteering for the Brandywine Cares Neighbors Helping Neighbors program! It is admirable of you to step up in this time of need. You may be well aware that the last thing we want is for a program intended to be helpful turn into something that harms. Therefore, it is critical that volunteers practice sanitary behaviors while shopping for our elderly and high-risk neighbors. Here are some instructions to follow, to the best of your ability:
- If you feel sick – with any symptoms, including but not limited to those associated with covid-19 – please DO NOT partake in this activity. Email Ali and she will assign a new volunteer to cover duties that were assigned to you.
- Before leaving for your grocery store/errand trip:
- Wash your hands, following proper handwashing procedures, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Using a disinfectant wipe, thoroughly wipe down any high-touch items that you intend to bring with you (cell phone, headphones, wallet, etc.).
- Do not bring your own reusable grocery bags – please use new bags provided by the store.
- If possible, leave children and pets at home.
- While at the store:
- Many stores provide disinfectant wipes to clean the surfaces of carts and baskets at their entry. Wipe down your cart or basket prior to shopping. Wipe your hands as well.
- Minimize any contact with high-touch surfaces, including door handles, your cell phone and other high-touch surfaces.
- Paper money (cash) and credit/debit cards are known to carry bacteria and other microbes. If you pay with one of these methods, wash your hands, use hand sanitizer or wipe them with a disinfectant wipe as soon as possible. Wearing plastic gloves is another option, if you have them.
- If you are set up to do so and the store offers the option, pay with contactless or “tap and go” technology like Apple Pay or Google Pay.
- Use a new plastic or paper bag provided by the store.
- After returning to the Brandywine:
- If you return to your apartment prior to dropping off the items you purchased, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
- Before dropping off the items for your neighbor: Using a disinfectant wipe, wipe down the handles of the bag(s) and any other surfaces that have come in contact with you or another person.
- Drop off the bag(s) of groceries/essentials outside your assigned neighbor’s door and notify them by knocking and/or texting or calling them.
It’s important to do everything we can to flatten the curve while also ensuring that the needs of our vulnerable neighbors are being met. They truly appreciate the time and effort you are giving, and let’s do everything we can to keep each other healthy and cared for.