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College roommates help essential workers with essential supplies

WCVB Boston logo WCVB Boston 5/28/2020
a close up of a bottle © Provided by WCVB Boston

In April, Dartmouth College roommates Amy Guan and Rine Uhm said they got to talking about gaps in giving during the coronavirus crisis.

"A lot of the frontline COVID relief efforts didn't really include essential workers like postal workers and grocery store stockers,” Guan said. “We wanted to create some sort of solution to solve this."

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Uhm said that conversation happened on a Wednesday and the solution was ready shortly after.

"36 hours later, Amy had coded (an) entire website by herself and we did our soft launch that Friday."

Their website is giveessential.org. It matches donors with a surplus of supplies to essential workers who have a specific need for items like masks, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products.

The workers are asked to submit a simple proof of employment.

"A screenshot of an email from a manager, a paystub, a picture of one's schedule," Uhm said.

Katie Toal, a Dartmouth graduate, is one of more than 50 volunteers with Give Essential. She explained that she helps to work out the details.

"It's really connecting them and finding a way for the essential workers to get the items that they specifically requested within a week time frame usually," Toal said.

Uhm said so far more than 1,000 requests have been fulfilled.

"I've seen so much that has moved me,” Toal said. “I think every single day I get a thank you from an essential worker who received a package."

Uhm recalled one worker, a grocery store clerk, who requested only baby shampoo.

"The donor was able to fulfill that request and he sent a very nice message to the volunteer and to Give Essential just describing how he had felt seen and heard,” Uhm said. “That one was very touching."

Both Uhm and Guan said the struggles of lower wage workers who we all depend on has only been highlighted by the pandemic and that their need is sure to continue beyond it.

"These problems are not necessarily just COVID issues,” Guan said. “Nobody should ever have to choose between buying soap and being able to feed their kids for the week. As long as we can continue to fill these needs and create these resource matches, we will continue to do so."

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