Grocery Delivery, Donation Boxes, And Free Meals: How Neighbors Are Helping Neighbors

By Jessica Swarner

March 31, 2020

Phoenicians have been finding ways to help each other out during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Helping out neighbors when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone stay six feet apart from each other can be a challenge.

But that’s not stopping people who have found ways to help those in need while complying with social distancing restrictions – including residents in Phoenix’s Arcadia neighborhood.

Here’s how these neighbors are making a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business Owner Delivers Groceries

Gabriel Aronson grew up in Phoenix, but later moved to Los Angeles where he owns bicycle and scooter rental shops. He said he came back to his hometown when wildfires in California threatened the land, and to help take care of his mom while she was sick. 

Now, he’s waiting out the coronavirus pandemic at a hotel in Scottsdale. He had brought a semi-truck full of scooters with him to Phoenix in hopes of renting them out during spring training, but when the preseason baseball games were canceled, he decided to use the vehicles to help people get groceries. 

“I love riding these scooters around town so I might as well do that with an objective,” he said. 

Aronson and volunteers he has recruited online take the scooters to local grocery stores and pick up whatever is needed. They then drop off the bags, which they clean with Clorox wipes, outside of people’s houses. Aronson doesn’t charge a delivery fee – he only asks for reimbursement for the bill. 

“People are super grateful to have this service,” Aronson said. “It’s not like a DoorDash or an Uber service – it’s just your local service; it’s free.” 

“[The customers] want to come out when we deliver. They want to thank you. They want to give you a hug,” Aronson added. “But we just say, ‘You know, right now is not the best time to do that, but we’re happy to help you.’” 

The group has carried out about 50 deliveries so far. However, now that Gov. Doug Ducey has put a stay-at-home order in place effective Tuesday at 5 p.m., Aronson said he is evaluating whether they can continue. 

Aronson said helping out families and seniors in his community has helped him relieve some of the worry he has over his own family. 

He said he talks to his parents on the phone every day but is avoiding any in-person contact. Aronson said he also has twin sisters and five nieces and nephews who live in the area, but they’ve had to stop having playtime in the yard. 

While Aronson’s family has him help them if needed, others are not so lucky. 

“The most important thing is that people don’t feel uncomfortable asking for help,” Aronson said. “I know that a lot of people have pride and they want to be self-sufficient, but now’s not a time to exercise pride. If you need help, call your neighbor; call your friend; let them know that you need something.” 

Wedding Planner Collects Donations

Victoria Canada, a wedding planner and mother of two, has been helping out however she can through the pandemic.

“I grew up in a family where we volunteered,” Canada said. “I feel like this is the time to not turn inwards it’s to turn outwards and see what you can do. You never know what your good work can do.” 

She and her daughter regularly volunteer at UMOM, a nonprofit that helps people experiencing homelessness. Now with the pandemic, the group needs more supplies. Canada said she put a donation bin outside of her house and was able to collect cleaning supplies, hygienic products, and more for the families in need. 

She said her family has also made sure to buy food from Randy’s Restaurant, a Scottsdale diner that has many regular elderly customers. She said the restaurant had planned to help out seniors who are struggling on their own dime, but she gave them $100 so they wouldn’t have to shoulder the full cost. 

And, beyond donating to organizations, Canada has used Facebook and Nextdoor to answer neighbors’ posts asking for help and give them things from her own home. 

“Sometimes social media gets such a bad rap,” she said, “but now used and pointed in the right direction, it can definitely be used for good, not evil.” 

Canada has been focusing on others while dealing with loss of income from her wedding planning, as well as worrying about her mom who is in an assisted living facility. She said she hasn’t been able to see her mom in over two weeks, so Canada bought her a smart speaker she can use to make video calls. 

“Every morning … I talk to her on the phone and I say, ‘Can you make sure you’re Lysoling your door handle?’ And I go through everything with her and make her Lysol it,” Canada said. 

“We are worse for her than being there, so I just have to hope for the best,” she added.

Real Estate Broker Provides Free Meals

Kevin Lange, a commercial real estate broker, president of the Zoneez power-washing company, and father of three, said he’s most worried about people who can’t afford to eat at this time. 

“I’m very protective. When this whole thing came up with COVID and I started finding out that families and children weren’t able to eat a healthy meal … I got into my protective mode,” he said. 

He also worried about small business owners who are likely seeing a big drop in income. Thus, Lange decided to team up with Miracle Mile Deli, whose owners he has known since he was a child, to offer neighbors free meals.

Lange said he remembers the Garcia family feeding his tennis team for free when he was growing up, and he wanted to return the favor by sending business their way.

Using Nextdoor, Lange has asked anyone who can’t afford to eat to let him know what they want from the deli, and he places the order and pays for it. Then the customers can come pick up their meal at any time, reducing the need for in-person contact. 

“As a person in general, my fiduciary responsibility is to help and protect Americans. I’m a patriot,” Lange said. “And I believe that in this very difficult time, we all have to step up in our own way.” 

Lange said he has been receiving about two to three requests per day for meals, including from teachers and seniors. 

An older man replied to Lange’s online post and said he is struggling to take care of his best friend from high school who has dementia. After Lange helped arrange a food order for the man, he replied, “An amazing Good Deed!! Kind hearted and Great food for Good people!! Your Kindness is off the Scale!! THANK You!!!!”

Lange said he wants people to know it doesn’t take much time and energy to coordinate something like this that gets people what they need. 

“I wish I could go down there and give [the people who need meals] a hug, and have their kids play with my kids,” he said. “But we can’t; we have this six-foot social distancing thing, so this is my way of virtually helping people out.”


  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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