CHESHIRE — Brian Fox admits he’s seen some “scary stuff” over the last three months
A 2018 graduate of Cheshire High School who is currently studying molecular and cell biology at the University of Connecticut, Fox worked for a local hospital in April when some of the first COVID-19 patients began to show up.
“You hear the stories from the patients, and you see what havoc the pandemic is wreaking (locally) …,” he recalled. “In my opinion, the pandemic isn’t over.”
Having seen personally what the virus could do to people, Fox recognized the importance of helping residents be able to stay home and stay safe, especially the elderly within the community for whom the virus has been most deadly. He wanted to find a way to help.
“Some people fall through the cracks,” said Fox. “I wanted to find a way to give people something to fall back on … something to make people feel safer.”
From that desire to give back was born Project Support Initiative Connecticut — a program designed to connect volunteers with senior citizens to provide contact-free grocery shopping alternatives for those unable to shop for themselves.
Project Support Initiative Connecticut is the first such program of its kind in the state. It is an offshoot of the national Project Support Initiative that was begun in Virginia by two teenagers — Akshath Mahajan and Maneesh Vallurupalli — back in April during the peak of the outbreak.
The goal is simple: have a group of volunteers on standby ready to take care of the grocery needs of elderly individuals who either cannot shop for themselves or are concerned about exposure to the virus. Those using the service are asked to fill out a form indicating what groceries they require and when, and the information is then passed on to a volunteer available to do the shopping.
After making contact, the volunteer heads off to the store. When finished, the volunteer will send the receipt of the bill to the senior citizen, who will then pay the volunteer directly, either electronically or by some other form of payment.
The volunteer then drops off the groceries to the individual’s home, all while ensuring zero contact.
Fox explained that the national program is focused almost exclusively on the elderly but he wanted to put “his own spin” on it and make sure that people who are immune-compromised or concerned about too much exposure to the public at the moment also have access.
“What we really want to be is there for whatever people need,” explained Fox. “If someone wants us to be shopping for them every week, or someone just needs a few things every once in a while, we want to be able to provide that.”
Fox first came across Project Support while looking for opportunities to help during the pandemic. Offering to support the cause in whatever way possible, Fox was informed that the goal of the two founders was to help spread the program throughout the U.S.
“There are now (programs) in Texas, Alabama, California … all over,” explained Fox.
It was decided that Fox would be the one to spearhead the initiative in Connecticut.
While attending UConn, Fox has been able to form friendships with students from all over the state, and he began to reach out to his friends to see if they’d be interested in volunteering. Fox found people willing to help all over Connecticut, from his hometown of Cheshire to the shoreline close to the New York border.
“I joke that it’s sort of a pyramid scheme of volunteers,” he said, with a laugh.
While Fox hopes to be able to cover requests from all over the state, he is taking things slow at the outset. With the program in its initial stages in Connecticut, he’s focusing on his immediate area — Cheshire and surrounding towns.
“I am looking at this almost as a pilot program,” he said. “I wanted to wait until we had more orders before reaching out to more volunteers. As the orders come in, we can expand out.”
“I feel like I have mobilized my troops,” he continued, with a laugh, “and I have volunteers ready to go when we start getting orders in. There are so many hands ready to help … so many people who want to volunteer.”
To inquire about the program, email email@example.com. To find out more about the initiative, visit https://sites.google.com/view/projectsup/home.