Students rally to help seniors through the crisis

Jonas Sultan and Arno Roverselli share a friendly moment between bike-borne grocery deliveries

With little more than a website, a computer and their bicycles, a determined group of Montreal students are making the most of their unexpected school break to help local seniors get their groceries without risking their health (and more) on the street.

“We live here and we know the streets,” said project director Jonas Sultan. “When the order went out to stay indoors, we knew a lot of local people – mostly seniors – began to have problems getting out to get their daily groceries, so we decided to help them out.”

As a McGill student (International Relations) with a passion for entrepreneurial initiatives, it didn’t take more than a few days before Sultan and friends put together their project that’s helping seniors get both groceries and medication without having to risk going out to the store. While most of Montreal’s major food stores were already overwhelmed by demands for delivered groceries, food store executives still hesitated to consider Sultan’s offer to organize a local bike-borne service to help deliver local orders.

Within days after the Legault administration closed down the province, Sultan asked Arno Roverselli — another school friend — to set up a website that described the local service, and within a week, over 40 out-of-school students are now delivering backpacks full of groceries to seniors all over the city.

“Once people know where to find us, all they have to do is type in to get started,” said Sultan.

After letting the service know your name, your address, your telephone number and your grocery list, you will be contacted to confirm the order as well as to arrange payment (usually by direct-deposit) for the groceries. Although orders are usually limited to what can be safely carried in a cyclist’s backpack, couriers wear both masks and gloves at all times to reduce risk of infection. Once the order – including visits to the pharmacy, and the S.A.Q. for a good bottle of wine – is bought and delivered to the client’s address, the courier uses his telephone to call and wait (at a safe distance) to see them get their groceries at the door. As clients are charged $5 per backpack full of groceries, Sultan said it’s little more than a well-deserved tip for a job well done.

“It makes a difference for all of us,” he said. “It keeps us busy, it keeps us on our bikes, and people are already getting used to a simple service that used to take up so much time and effort when you’re all alone, and there’s no one to do this for you.”

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