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COVID-19: Acts of kindness in uncertain times

Empty grocery store shelves
Posted at 9:45 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-22 23:24:37-04

Most of you have probably experienced a trip to the local store by now, only to see empty store shelves and staple items gone.

Fear and uncertainty fueled by COVID-19 have led to mass over-buying of everyday household products, and long lines at stores.

Now, some Valley residents are starting a new trend using social media. The goal is to fight these fears by offering help in the form of needed products to those in need.

It is neighbors helping neighbors get through these unprecedented times we are now facing.

Angela Mae Payne says she worries about the elderly and disabled who may not have the strength or ability to go to stores and buy what they need. It hit home during one of her recent trips to the 99-cent store in Chandler.

"I ran into a 90-year old lady at the 99 cent store, and she was just crying inside the store. She just wanted one roll of toilet paper," said Payne.

When the store manager informed them they had none left, Payne knew what she had to do.

"I went to my car and got a package I had bought, I took it over to her and she just hugged me and cried and gave me a kiss on my cheek. She was so grateful," said Payne.

Through the small, random act of kindness, a big effort was born. With help from Zach Sweat whom she had met on social media, the Facebook page "Basic needs donations for high risk individuals" was born. Sweat told ABC15 it was to help link those who needed help with those who could help.

On this Facebook page ABC15 found Samantha Rogers, a chronic care management coordinator at the Hatfield Medical Center. Rogers was collecting items she planned to deliver to patients who were in need. She showed off her collection which included everything from toilet paper, to peanut butter, rice, popcorn, and bottled water.

Rogers said she planned to deliver a case of water to a wheelchair bound patient after work.

"I would want someone to do it for me or my family," said Rogers.

"A lot of these patients, elderly patients are alone. If we can help, even if it's one can of fruit or one roll of toilet paper or whatever, I'd rather have them have it over me or my family, because they need it more," she added.

ABC15 also met Kate Apellof, a mother of three young children on the Facebook page. She was desperately in need of toilet paper, after several failed shopping trips.

"It's been really hard. My husband the other day had to go to like four different stores just to get the necessities like milk," said Apellof.

The good news, she tells ABC15 the response to her plea for help was overwhelming.

"It was immediate, everyone was like here I've got paper towels if that helps, I have baby wipes if that helps, I had several people offer me rolls of toilet paper as well," said Apellof.

Sweat said the Facebook community page had turned into a safe place and a haven for those who were dealing with the chaos inside grocery stores.

"There's definitely a different atmosphere in that group than what you are seeing a lot of right now. There's a lot less dread. There's a lot more hope and people coming together," said Sweat.

In three days the community page has grown to over 700 members.

You can join this community of neighbors helping neighbors and do your part here.

While at risk groups are being asked to stay indoors, another Valley woman created a group of 55 volunteers throughout the greater Phoenix area she says are able to go grocery shopping for them. Claire Priddy created 'Shop Safe AZ'. She says at risk groups, like the elderly, can either call them at 602-888-0757, email them at shopsafeaz@gmail.com or go to their website.