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Newspaper deliveryman brings groceries to his older customers on morning route, no extra charge

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/31/2020 Cathy Free
a man standing in front of a window: Joan Coppinger greets newspaper deliveryman Greg Dailey as he drops off her groceries in northern New Jersey. (Erin Dailey) Joan Coppinger greets newspaper deliveryman Greg Dailey as he drops off her groceries in northern New Jersey. (Erin Dailey)

Days after New Jersey residents were ordered to stay at home last week because of the coronavirus, Sandy and John Driska were running low on groceries. Going out for food shopping seemed precarious since she had bronchitis and he was fighting Parkinson’s disease.

Then Sandy Driska, 72, who lives in the northern New Jersey township of Cranbury, heard through a friend that an acquaintance who subscribed to the local Newark newspaper, the Star-Ledger, found a typed note rolled up in her morning paper.

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“My name is Greg Dailey and I deliver your newspaper every morning,” the note began. “I understand during these trying times it is difficult for some to get out of their house to get everyday necessities. I would like to offer my services free of charge to anyone who needs groceries, household products, etc. I will be shopping at ShopRite and [McCaffrey’s] and can deliver the goods directly to your front door."

It included his phone number. She was skeptical, but she reached out anyway because she was feeling desperate.

“I thought, ‘Oh, he’s too good to be true,’ ” Sandy Driska said. “But then I called Greg, and he delivered $302 of groceries to the front of my garage the very next day.”

She thanked him and wrote him a check. He didn’t charge her a penny more than what her groceries cost.

“What a godsend this man has been,” she said.

a man standing in front of a window: Greg Dailey delivers groceries to one of his newspaper customers in East Windsor, N.J., while keeping a safe distance. (Erin Dailey) Greg Dailey delivers groceries to one of his newspaper customers in East Windsor, N.J., while keeping a safe distance. (Erin Dailey)

Dailey, 50, is a self-described “shy guy,” who would just as soon volunteer to have his teeth drilled than draw attention to himself, according to those who know him.

But when he noticed that an older customer didn’t want to walk down to the sidewalk to pick up her morning newspaper after the coronavirus pandemic arrived in New Jersey, it made him think there must be plenty of people on his route who were afraid to leave their home — even for necessities.

“I was at the grocery store a couple of days later and started thinking about this 88-year-old lady and an idea just popped into my head,” said Dailey, a newspaper carrier for 25 years who lives in East Windsor, N.J.

a group of people posing for the camera: The Dailey family in East Windsor, N.J., in March. Back row, from left: Brian, Greg and Sean. Front: Cherlyn and Erin. (Erin Dailey) The Dailey family in East Windsor, N.J., in March. Back row, from left: Brian, Greg and Sean. Front: Cherlyn and Erin. (Erin Dailey) “I called her up and said, ‘Hi, this is Greg, your newspaper guy — I’m at the store, do you need anything?’ ” Dailey said. “She asked me to pick up a couple of things, and then she called me back and said, ‘Could you also get some brown eggs and bananas for the Millers across the street?’ ”

After dropping off the groceries, Dailey sat down at his computer and typed out an offer to shop for all 800 of his newspaper customers, and anyone else in his delivery area who might need a little help.

Some grocery stores deliver, but it can take days or weeks to get a delivery slot, if any are available at all. Customers have to figure out how to place their orders online, which can be confusing, and then there are delivery fees and tips to pay, a financial hardship for many.

When Dailey’s phone started ringing with requests from grateful subscribers, he enlisted his wife, Cherlyn Dailey, their children, Erin, 24, Sean, 21, and Brian, 17, and his mother-in-law, Carol Krohn, to help with the cause every morning.

“During a crisis like this, it’s so important to step back and look at the bigger picture,” Erin Dailey said. “The second my father looked beyond what’s in his mirror, we as a family knew [that we should] offer a helping hand to those in dire need.”

“It’s really very simple,” added Cherlyn Dailey, 48. “Our responsibility is to take care of one another."

For Greg Dailey, who also runs a frame shop that is closed during the pandemic, a love of flinging newspapers in the wee hours started when he accompanied his dad on a route as a boy growing up in East Windsor.

“I’d go out and help him all the time to deliver the Hudson Dispatch,” he said of the now-defunct newspaper. “Then after I got married and we had our first child, I decided that becoming a carrier was a good way to earn a little extra money.”

Over the years, he has gotten to know many of his customers, he said, so it made sense for him to offer to add a gallon of milk, produce and canned goods to the morning news after people were told to stay home due to the spread of the coronavirus.

“Most of the people we’re helping are elderly and really shouldn’t be out shopping now anyway,” Greg Dailey said.

After his paper route ends each morning around 7 a.m., he and his family visit two local grocery stores in the community, split up the shopping lists, then make the day’s deliveries after wiping everything down with disinfecting wipes.

“I give everyone a head’s up that I’m going to drop by, then they put out an envelope for me with their payment,” Dailey said. “Sometimes, we’ll sit and talk a bit from a distance. To be honest, this is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done."

He doesn’t charge customers for his delivery service, but payment has come in other forms — smiles, appreciative notes and offers to pay it forward, he said.

Photo gallery: Encouragement From Balconies Around the World (The Atlantic)

A few days ago, when he received another thank-you note from a longtime subscriber, Dailey knew that his impact was having the effect he’d hoped for.

“Hi, Greg — We got your note this morning with our paper,” the note read. “We wanted to say thank you and although we don’t need the assistance ourselves, we wanted to support your generosity. I would like to send you a little money in support of your effort. How can I send it to you?”

The customer put $40 in his mailbox, which Dailey said he'll use to pay for gas and perhaps a few extras for a customer in need.

Photo gallery: Communities come together amid coronavirus (Reuters)

“This isn’t something that we’re just going to do for a few days — we’re in this for the duration,” he said. “My daughter and I delivered to a home yesterday, and the woman told me, ‘You’re the closest thing to an angel I’ve ever seen.’ Do you know what that does to your heart?”

“I just melted,” he said.

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