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Free program to help residents with shopping during the pandemic

As we head into the holiday shopping season, a new initiative has begun here in Kingston, which may make it easier for immunocompromised individuals to check items off their list.

Shopping Angels Canada is a community led program designed to provide shopping services to those deemed especially at-risk for contracting COVID-19, which has advanced throughout the world. Created in Nevada, this program spread rapidly throughout the United States and moved internationally, to Australia and Canada. Jaya Manjunath leads the Canadian branch, and Queen’s student Karina Fainchtein brought the initiative to Kingston.

This free service connects individuals who may be at greater risk of complications from COVID-19, or who have trouble leaving their homes, with volunteers willing to do their shopping for them.

A provincial coordinator organizes volunteers based on physical location. The client requesting services is then contacted by a local volunteer, and they iron out details such as what is needed, and how they will arrange drop off and payment. Currently Shopping Angels operates only in cash, and there is no fee for participating in this service.

“I wanted to bring this to Kingston because I study here, and I know that Kingston has a large senior population,” Karina Fainchtein, Queen’s student and media outreach coordinator for Shopping Angels, shared in an interview with Kingstonist. “I thought it would be a great idea to try to bring that initiative there, and so far it’s been off to a great start.”

How it works:

Those wishing to receive services can fill out a form on the Shopping Angels Canada website, or call 365-650-5647 and leave a message. Requests are processed, and volunteers sourced from the database of local individuals. The volunteer then connects with the individual making the request, and helps them complete tasks they are not comfortable leaving the house to do.

To volunteer, individuals register on the Shopping Angels Canada website, and choose their comfort levels. For example, times available, distances willing to travel, and how they would like to be contacted.

“We’re entirely volunteer based,” Karina explained. “We don’t have any funds for anyone. We’re also a not-for-profit, and the clients don’t have to pay anything extra.”

When asked who they’ve seen volunteering for this program, Karina stated: “We’re seeing many high school students who are participating for volunteer hours. Also people in the workforce who let us know that they’re able to pick up groceries on the way home from work, and can stop at someone’s house. We’re also seeing university students get involved as well, especially with online school.”

“I’ve noticed that students, high school and university, are really looking to get involved,” she continued “Especially since so many clubs and initiatives on campus are closed this year. But in terms of overall volunteers we’re seeing volunteers across all ages.”

And who are they serving? “I think we’re serving everyone who would say they have a compromised immune system,” shared Karina. “Seniors, and those who have those who don’t feel comfortable going to the grocery store necessarily because they’re especially susceptible to contracting the virus. And we’re also seeing parents of young infants. Another demographic we’re seeing is people who have physical impairments that make it harder for them to go to the grocery store, especially during the pandemic.”

Karina says they are hoping to spread awareness of this program through flyers and word-of-mouth, as many who would benefit are not online often, if at all.

To learn more about Shopping Angels Canada, or to volunteer, visit their website: https://shoppingangelscanada.weebly.com/

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