Founded in March by The Woodlands native Sofia Milosavljevic, the Find A Helper service has allowed senior citizens and people with underlying medical conditions to connect with volunteer delivery drivers in order to receive food, medicine and other products without venturing out of their homes. Milosavljevic said she worked to start Find A Helper this year to help provide for The Woodlands community’s needs through the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
“I just felt like it was my responsibility to do something, but especially given that I have no medical certification, anything like that, I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “But then I realized that a lot of people are struggling just to get the basics, especially if they’re older or at-risk. And I knew growing up in The Woodlands that a lot of people are really willing to help and they want to volunteer, and that was kind of my situation.”
Through Find A Helper, seniors or members of a medically at-risk population are connected with volunteer drivers and shoppers based around The Woodlands area. Clients are then able to place grocery or medication orders and confirm payment with their assigned volunteer, and receive the deliveries directly to their residence free of charge. Through individual client-volunteer relationships, Milosavljevic said additional requests may also be fulfilled as permitted by current public health and business guidelines.
Milosavljevic said she returned to The Woodlands this March in response to the coronavirus after graduating from Johns Hopkins University last December. While she initially planned to stay in Baltimore as a start to her gap year before entering medical school next fall, she said her newfound time back home led her to find a way to provide a health service previously missing in The Woodlands area.
“Many times, public health is based on very fundamental things like meeting someone’s food needs because you can’t have someone in good health if they don’t have access to food,” Milosavljevic said. “This is something I felt like I could do that may be a little more health-related directly and could fulfill the need that people knew was present but there was no organization that could facilitate the service because this specific situation has never presented itself.”
Milosavljevic said she was initially surprised by the community’s positive response to her concept in its first few weeks of the service, which now has about 40 volunteers and nearly two dozen clients enrolled. Going forward, she said she hopes to continue connecting more potential clients in the area with the assortment of community members ready and willing to help.
Since Find A Helper's launch, she said clients have endorsed the ease of use and personal care compared with other corporate grocery delivery services that may be more automated or require a higher degree of comfort with technology. And in addition to getting much-needed food and prescriptions to home-bound or at-risk residents, Milosavljevic said the service has also allowed clients and volunteers to develop new social connections through a time of increased social isolation.
“From both sides, they’ve really enjoyed that it’s also a personal relationship, especially if they decide to continue collaborating for the rest of this pandemic,” she said. “They get to know the person, and it becomes less of a transactional relationship and more just a community partnership between two people.”
While Milosavljevic designed Find A Helper to support The Woodlands area residents through the coronavirus pandemic, she said the positive response she has received may result in the program’s expansion beyond the current health crisis and for additional populations in need. Milosavljevic said she is now planning to remain in The Woodlands until her expected start of medical school in fall 2021, and is willing to facilitate Find A Helper’s work until that time if demand remains.
“We’ve kind of taken off in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I was really surprised by the amount of volunteers we got, which I definitely thought would be harder because you’re asking people to take a risk themselves going to the store and delivering things for someone else. But I really found that people are very willing to do that,” Milosavljevic said. “Especially in these times, I think finding a sense of community is important. And I think doing this helps some people with that.”
Anyone wishing to participate in the Find A Helper service, either as a volunteer or as a potential client, can sign up through the program’s website to begin the application process. Those interested may also contact Milosavljevic directly by email or phone at firstname.lastname@example.org or 832-764-1467. For more information, or to submit an application, visit www.findahelper.org.