In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery shopping isn’t an easy task anymore, especially for senior citizens and people with underlying health issues. Bakersfield local and University of California, Los Angeles, alumnus Ulysis Baal created Relief Shoppers to help those most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Relief Shoppers is a program that connects young, healthy volunteers in the community to shop for seniors to limit their exposure to the virus.
Because his mother was a nurse and had her own home care facility, Baal was surrounded by elderly people throughout his childhood. Baal would build relationships that taught him about the value of one’s life.
“When I first started, I thought I would just be grocery shopping by myself and have a list of people to deliver to,” he said.
Baal said Relief Shoppers ended up becoming more valuable to the community than expected.
“After I published my program on my Facebook and Instagram, friends and friends of friends hopped on the volunteer wagon and helping the cause,” he said.
Baal believes he and his team can take Relief Shoppers to the next level by establishing his program as a nonprofit organization in Bakersfield and continuing the program after the COVID-19 pandemic and the world returns to normalcy.
“(Relief Shoppers) was needed way before the pandemic,” said Baal. “A lot of vulnerable patients can’t leave the house or don’t have people to care for them so it’s hard for people to get groceries. I never thought about this outside the pandemic. It’s crazy that people are in that state of living normally in life.”
Clients can request a relief shopper through the website by filling out basic information. Baal said most people get approved and once approved, clients have access to a private page where they can send their grocery list. The program also offers free delivery for its clients.
The program was able to grab the attention of Stewards Inc., a local nonprofit organization that works with vulnerable people in Kern County by connecting them to services and resources. Relief Shoppers was able to partner with Stewards as both programs advocate for vulnerable and elderly people.
“(Relief Shoppers) is probably one of the most amazing and fulfilling moments of my life. We’re working so hard for something so important and meaningful and getting the community together to lend a helping hand to those who need it the most,” he said.
Baal said people can apply to volunteer on www.reliefshoppers.com and fill out a form. Adhering to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Baal encourages young and healthy people to volunteer while still following the no-contact rule.
“One of the greatest things about this is that so many people are coming out to help. We have a beautiful community in Bakersfield. Everyone is trying to help each other out. There’s a big emphasis here in Kern County — what community can do and will do for others,” said Baal. ￼