Orland Park college student marshals peers to shop for and deliver groceries to seniors

Michael Arundel figured he and a few friends could deliver groceries to older folks for free. Then word spread. To say it’s become a thing is an understatement.

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Orland Park native Michael Arundel shops for seniors citizens after starting a free grocery shopping and delivery program that’s mushrooming around the country.

Orland Park native Michael Arundel shops for seniors citizens after starting a free grocery shopping and delivery program that’s mushrooming around the country.

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Ten days ago, Orland Park native Michael Arundel — home from college because of the coronavirus — offered in a Facebook post to grocery shop for seniors in the area and deliver free of charge.

He only asked to be reimbursed for the groceries.

The calls started coming in. His oldest and closest friends joined in the effort.

Then, dozens of other college kids reached out to help.

He tapped savings from his summer job as an emergency medical technician for a private ambulance firm to pay Facebook to spread the message.

Ex-Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin knocked on his family’s door and handed over a sizable donation to help the cause. The folks at Second City Web Design offered their services for free to get a site up and running at www.covidseniorshoppers.com.

He dubbed the operation “Leave it to us.”

Television news outlets began to call.

Then, on Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised Arundel in his daily coronavirus news conference that’s broadcast live across the region.

Within hours, Arundel was flooded with hundreds of emails and phone calls.

“When America is under crisis, our communities and people step up and come togetherand get things done,” Arundel said. “Even a southwest suburbskid who had an idea.”

The project is no longer just local.

Arundel is working with volunteer coordinators to expand the service to cities across the country, including Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego and Salt Lake City. A chapter is already up and running in Tuscaloosa, where Arundel attends the University of Alabama. He’s a junior and a pre-med major.

Closer to home, more than 50 volunteers, and counting, are starting to fill in geographical gaps throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

“For seniors who need our help, please reach out, I promise I will get back to you and hopefully I can be your matchmaker with a college student and get it done for you,”Arundel told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Contacting Arundel by email — michael@covidseniorshoppers.com — is easiest for him at the moment.

“I plan on doing this indefinitely until the virus is over and we’re back to normal,” he said.

Volunteers wear gloves and use hand sanitizers.“We’re really cognizant and mindful of what we touch,” he said.

Seniors who participate are only asked to reimburse volunteers for groceries.

The exchange is done without contact — groceries often left on a stoop, money under a front mat.

“I do see most of the people, they’re usually waving through a window,” Arundel said.

Each volunteer undergoes a background check and pays for their own gas, Arundel said, although he hopes to use donations to help out with gas money.

“Some people leave a tip or a donation. We appreciate that. But we don’t ask for it whatsoever, and we’re happy if you don’t,” said Arundel, a graduate of Carl Sandburg High School.

Arundel’s father and mother, Brian and Amy, help out, as well as his 21-year-old sister, Katelyn.

“When I started getting calls, it just lit up my face,” he said. “I get the same reaction every time.”

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