ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A group of college students currently forced to be away from their campus by the coronavirus pandemic are putting that time away, as well as things they've learned, to good use by helping those on what they call the "hidden frontline" of the fight.
We learned about GiveEssential.org from Lakeland native Kaitlyn Kelley, who if not for the pandemic would be on campus at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where's she's a sophomore.
Kelley put us in touch with Rine Uhm and Amy Guan, fellow students at Dartmouth, who launched the site in just three days. They said they came up with the concept after hearing horror stories from front line workers.
“When I went to Rine with this, we realized a lot of the front line Covid efforts ... none really focused on these essential workers, that they were mostly focused on health care workers," Guan explained. "So we wanted to see if there was any way we could help these essential workers."
And while they’re still coming up with what they think defines a "front line" worker, they said right now it’s grocery store employees, bus drivers and food delivery workers — pretty much anyone working and willing to put their life on the line for others during this pandemic.
So in just a matter of days they launched their website and came up with a unique concept.
“On our website we have two different forms,” said Uhm. “One for essential workers and one for donors. So the essential worker will fill out the form and we ask for them to select the category from which they would like a gift. So these categories are Covid protection gear, feminine hygiene products, personal hygiene products, gift cards and kids' activities."
They also ask the donors to choose what they want to give. After that, they match the two and connect them with the help of volunteers like Kelley.
“What the bulk of our volunteers are doing now is, they’re essentially the middle man between the essential workers and the donors,” Kelley said. “For privacy reasons, we don’t have the essential workers and donors come in contact, so the volunteers are emailing the workers and the donors.”
So far, they say the "thank you" messages are coming in as fast as the donations.
“I’m so happy y’all created this site. I’m seriously tearing up filling out this application,” one person wrote.
“It’s inspiring and beautiful to watch such a positive constructive use of time," wrote another person.
To learn more or to sign up as either an "essential worker" or a donor, visit GiveEssential.org.