University of Alabama junior Michael Arundel returned home to Chicago for spring break expecting to study for the MCAT, but after his cousin, who he describes as his “second grandma,” called him scared about the coronavirus pandemic, he ended up using his extended spring break to create a non-profit organization, Leave It To Us, that helps senior citizens practice social distancing by using volunteers to grocery shop for them free of charge.
“The news was ramping up and people were scared,” said Arundel, who is a 20-year-old biology pre-med major. “Chicago is quarantined. I told her she was in the category that was at the most risk and I told her what precautions she could take.
“I said I’d shop for her and her friends when I got home. I did that and then thought why couldn’t my greater group of friends do this? They jumped aboard, and it took off from there.”
In the span of a week, Leave It To Us has become a Chicago-wide service that is expanding to other cities nationwide.
“A lot of people got in contact with me and want to start their own Leave It To Us groups. We’ve been getting calls from Seattle to L.A to just all over. It’s crazy.”
How Leave It To Us works is a senior citizen calls the non-profit – they usually find out about it through referral – and places an order for groceries or pharmaceuticals. Then Arundel or one of the 20 volunteers working with him goes out to purchase the requested items.
Once the groceries or medications are bought using money Arundel saved up while working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in Chicago for the past two summers, they call the customer to tell them the total, drop the groceries off without coming into contact with the person and are then reimbursed.
With classes scheduled to resume next week through Zoom and other online platforms, Arundel said Leave It To Us will continue on beyond the extended break.
“We don’t know how long this pandemic will last, but we’ll continue to provide our services as long as we’re needed.”
If other college students would like to create Leave It To Us groups in their own communities, Arundel invites them to contact him through the group’s Facebook page to help them get started.
“Instead of sitting at home our generation can do something greater. I hope our generation can lead by example and create some happiness in our senior citizens.”
Arundel and the Leave It To Us service have been featured in several news stories around the Chicago area, and even the Today Show.