Neel Jain, PDX Concierge founder, shops at Trader Joe's for people at high risk during the pandemic. (Courtesy/Neel Jain)
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Luke Clifton, 17, hasn’t been able to visit his grandparents in Coos Bay.
His family hasn’t taken their usual trip to Nevada to see his grandfather either.
Clifton, a senior at South Salem High School, is turning his efforts to help older Salemites get groceries safely during a pandemic.
“It’s hard to not be able to see them but helping other people in that same group … it makes me feel like I’m connecting with them in a sense,” he said.
Clifton is the Salem presence for PDX Concierge, a free grocery shopping and delivery service started by Portland high school student Neel Jain in April. To date, they haven’t delivered any groceries in Salem, but are working to get the word out that help is available.
Jain said he saw a community need for seniors, people at high risk for coronavirus and first responders have groceries delivered to them. His grandma has asthma, he said, putting her at high risk for the virus.
“I initially was just kind of shopping around for her and I realized there may be many other people in the community,” he said. With school meeting virtually, Jain found he had time on his hands and got to work. He set up a website and process.
Those who want to request a delivery can call, email or fill out an online form with their shopping list and desired store. Jain or another volunteer will go shopping and deliver items within a day or two, and recipients reimburse them for the cost by check or cash left at the door. There’s no delivery fee.
Volunteers will call with any questions that arise while shopping, Jain said.
The PDX Concierge service now makes a grocery delivery about once per day in Portland or Eugene, with about 110 deliveries to date.
Jain has lined up volunteers to expand to other Oregon cities including Salem, Roseburg and Bend. Now, they just need customers.
Jain and Clifton connected on social media as Jain was looking for more volunteers.
Clifton serves as the president of South Salem’s Key Club and has previously helped run canned food drives at school. He said he enjoys community service, and the chance to leave the house and do something different during his day.
“It’s honestly a great way to connect with the community during the pandemic,” Clifton said.
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Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.