App connects volunteers and seniors to provide safe personal shopping

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

Christina Vyzas should be working as a medical scribe, but instead the aspiring medical student is volunteering to help senior citizens — the most at risk for contracting COVID 19.

“I was researching opportunities to buy groceries for seniors and found the website online so I signed up. So basically I get the list through the app. I go to the store and buy everything. I’m reimbursed and I drop off the groceries for the seniors and everyone has been really grateful,” she said.

“I am so happy to see toilet paper and paper towel. This is so kind of you to do this and I so appreciate it,” said senior Claire Levash.

Levash is one of those senior citizens who is now using an app called Umbrella. Originally, Umbrella connected adults over 60 with part-time service providers for things like handiwork or help with groceries through a paid membership. But now the membership is free, volunteer-based, and focused on delivering groceries and medication for seniors, according to CEO Lindsay Ullman.

“The challenge that we have seen is the challenge that really we heard from seniors that we work with, which was they were going to the online delivery services and were finding no available delivery windows. The systems are overwhelmed. If they aren’t digital, then you can’t go on the online services in the first place. So the first challenge was how can you find someone who can get you groceries quickly, efficiently. So what we looked at was the best way to do that,” Ullman said.

“I was trying to work with big stores and their online and reserve a slot and I kept getting pushed off and it was awful,” said Levash.

Since making the switch, Ullman says they have seen the number of requests tripling from seniors each week.

“Thankfully the number of volunteers who are coming in are going even faster. We have lots of volunteers that have signed off. We have, I think there are 2,000 in New Jersey last week alone,” Ullman said.

“You’ve taken a lot of anxiety off of me because my doctor said no stores, so you need food so I hope more people volunteer like you do,” Levash added.

Vyzas said she started volunteering because she was personally impacted by seeing seniors out shopping.

“I’ve seen seniors out waiting in line and in the store without a mask and gloves because they are hard to come by. I just felt like it’s easy to do if you’re going for your family anyway. In the app you can pick up an order and add it to yours,” she said.

Ullman says while there is no fee, they are taking donations and are always looking for more volunteers to help with the demand of urgent deliveries.