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Young People Deliver Supplies To Elderly In New York City

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

New York city's death toll from COVID-19 now exceeds 1,000.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The unfolding disaster has revealed a fact about the nation's largest city. A gigantic metropolis, which can feel cold and ruthless, only functions because people work together. And in this crisis, some New Yorkers are asking a simple question to strangers, what can I do to help you? Simone Policano is asking that. The 25-year-old has built an army of young volunteers in just a few weeks.

SIMONE POLICANO: It feels like we've accidentally created a community of young people who just really wanted to help right now.

MARTIN: Simone posted on Facebook asking how younger people in New York could deliver supplies to the elderly. She got in contact with three college students. And among them, they formed a network of volunteers called Invisible Hands.

INSKEEP: Volunteers, who shop for groceries and deliver them to the most vulnerable. Simone says they are left at the door to make sure that it's safe.

POLICANO: There is no direct contact between the volunteer and the recipient because, obviously, safety is our biggest concern. And we want to mitigate risk as much as possible. Ninety percent of our deliveries are able to happen in the same day, if not even within a few hours. And that's incredible. And I think they're just so ready and willing to help.

MARTIN: Liam Elkind is one of the other cofounders and points out that physical distancing doesn't mean there's no connection with the people they've been delivering to.

LIAM ELKIND: We are supposed to be socially isolating. But I think that we have been socially engaging while keeping our physical distance.

INSKEEP: And for Liam, the connections he's built are likely to last beyond the crisis.

ELKIND: A lot of people who I now feel intimate connections with across the city I have not yet met in person. But they are now a deep part of my life.

INSKEEP: Simone recalls a phone call that she had with someone who had received a delivery.

POLICANO: I was about to hang up. And she said, you know, I just have to tell you. Today is my birthday. And this is the best gift that anybody could have given me. And so she started crying. And I started crying. And it was a whole thing. And she said, you know, I am, you know, 60 years older than you are. And we are now connected.

MARTIN: Carol Sterling is one of the New Yorkers who's benefited from Invisible Hands. She's 83 and lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. She's been impressed by the volunteers who have been delivering her supplies.

CAROL STERLING: That's a great sign that the young generation feels a responsibility to be activists and to build bridges to a generation that, perhaps, they had that much contact with.

INSKEEP: And this idea that started with a few New Yorkers now includes 8,000 volunteers.

(SOUNDBITE OF WMD'S "MOONPOOL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.