A trip to the grocery store can be a difficult and stressful outing for a senior. So, two high schoolers from Maryland jumped in to help their own neighbors, and now their idea is spreading across the nation.
The students, just 15 and 16 years old, are coordinating hundreds of free grocery deliveries for seniors in need during the pandemic.
“We’ve learned there’s a huge problem, unfortunately, when it comes to senior hunger,” said Matthew Casertano.
Casertano and his friend, Dhruv Pai, started by making grocery deliveries to their own grandparents.
“I saw the fear in their eyes every time they went to the grocery store,” said Pai. “There was a trade-off they had to make between the necessities and their personal safety that I wanted to avoid at all costs.”
“We knew we couldn’t rely on the goodwill of people wearing masks, keeping social distancing, so we had to do the shopping,” said Casertano.
Then, one afternoon on the carpool ride home, the teens had an idea.
“We thought, ‘What about people who don’t have grandchildren who can’t do the shopping for them?’” said Casertano.
That’s when they started Teens Helping Seniors, where any senior in need can email a grocery list for teens to pick up at the store.
“We will coordinate a volunteer in their area who can service that request in a one to two-day turnaround,” said Pai.
The teens do all the shopping, and then drop off and sanitize each order. It’s a simple favor that means so much to those they help.
“I thank you, and I thank God for you, for making such a unique individual as every human being is, but you’re showing it, you’re showing your heart,” said Marie Cavill, a senior who fractured her back during the pandemic.
Cavill has physically been unable to leave her home, but she is also frightened to go out and risk a possible COVID-19 exposure.
The teens said they were shocked by how many volunteers this program now has. They have 26 chapters in the United States and one chapter in Canada, with more than 600 volunteers. Because of its immense success, the group is now helping with more than just groceries.
“Now, we cover things like mental health support for seniors suffering from the after-effects of isolation,” said Pai.
It’s simple things like calling to say hello or leaving an unexpected box of cookies with an order that’s bringing generations together.
“Despite this huge gap in who we are and what we have in common, we’re still able to help each other through this pandemic, and that’s something my own grandmother taught me at a very young age—is to always help strangers,” said Pai.
“They are showing what our young adults and teenagers have the capacity to do,” said Cavill.
If you’d like to send in a grocery list or learn how to volunteer, visit TeensHelpingSeniors.org.