CHICAGO — Meredith McDonough is a law student and busy researcher with the University of Chicago, but when she learned the fast spreading coronavirus was leaving the vulnerable without access to necessities, she set her work aside and put her neighbors first.
Last week, as the news spread about the increased danger COVID-19 poses to the sick and elderly, McDonough swung into action.
“I said if anyone who is in one of the higher risk demographics for the virus needs something, then please email and I will get to it as soon as I can,” she said.
The 23-year-old posted a message on nextdoor.com and other social media sites volunteering to run grocery errands for the elderly or anyone who has a compromised immune system. She offered her help to residents of Lincoln Park and nearby neighborhoods. Almost immediately she had takers.
“So far, it’s been pretty basic things,” she said. “I’ve delivered a gallon of milk to a man in Lakeview last night. A few days ago, I took some tissues and paper plates to a woman in Roscoe Village, those kind of things just basic house hold items.”
Monica Turner was recently hospitalized with the flu and also suffers from asthma. She was unable to make a quick run to the store, so she contacted McDonough.
“For a complete stranger to really risk her life with the virus and just come out and just do it, I’m really happy for her. I’m really proud of her for stepping up,” she said.
COVID-19 is very much on the mind of Frederick Rizzo, whose grandfather Paulino Rizzo died from the Spanish flu in 1919, just a year after the outbreak. He said he contacted McDonough in case he should need to rely on the service in the future.
With no car, McDonough runs the errands using her bike and charging only the cost of the items. She said with the recent chaos that has ensued surrounding the virus, helping her neighbors is helping her too.
“Since I started doing this, it’s something I can focus on, it’s something I’m in control of. It’s this concrete thing that I can get up and everyday and help people and I feel great now,” she said.
And she’s not alone. So far, her post has attracted at least 75 volunteers.
“We now have a small army of young and healthy people ready to go out and help wherever they can,” she said.
Growing up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, McDonough said she was constantly exposed to neighborly interaction, and doesn’t get all the fuss.
“I don’t really think I’m doing anything that worthy of that level of praise I think I’m doing what any neighbor would do,” she said.
But it’s clear her Chicago neighbors appreciate it.
“She’s just God’s angel pretty much, to do this for people and everybody,” Turner said.
“She’s an angel she’s a young person, contrary to what a lot of people believe, is doing good things for the neighbors,” Rizzo said.
The increase in both requests and volunteers is keeping McDonough busy, but she says it’s all worth it.
“When you go to the door and someone tells you you are God’s angel, it definitely brightens up somebody’s day,” she said.
If you’d like to reach out to McDonough and her team of volunteers, you can send an email to email@example.com.