A Windsor man who normally makes accessible parks and playgrounds for children has turned his attention toward seniors and other vulnerable populations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by launching a volunteer-run delivery service.
“It’s just getting bigger and bigger,” Mark Jones said.
“We’re getting more people to be able to stay home that are high-risk so they don’t have to go out and get their own groceries and what have you.”
Jones got the idea for the delivery service after his daughter had an encounter with a senior at a grocery store who couldn’t buy toilet paper because none was available.
“She came home, she was extremely upset and I thought we have to do something about that,” he said.
He eventually figured out who the man was and delivered to him the supplies he needed. Jones then started a Facebook group called Windsor-Essex County Seniors needing necessities and “it just ballooned from that,” he said.
Jones and his team of volunteers mostly deliver groceries to seniors, but he also sources personal protective equipment, like high-quality face masks for health-care workers and high-risk individuals.
The group volunteer group started with 30 people and has now grown to over 100. Overall, they’ve made more than 6,000 deliveries.
Ford Canada also gave Jones a number of hard-to-come-by face shields, while the Lally Ford dealership has lent a truck to help him with deliveries.
“They found out my favourite vehicle was a Ford Raptor. This isn’t a Raptor, but [this is the] next best thing,” Jones said.
According to Jones, people can place orders through the Facebook group or by sending him a private message.
“When they get a delivery, they are very relieved,” he said. “Because a lot of these seniors are very scared.”
His priority is helping the most vulnerable. He just seems to be tireless in his efforts to do this.– Fran Burbank
When people can afford the delivery, Jones said they pay him or the volunteers by email transfer. On other occasions, Jones has paid out of pocket — about $4,000 in all.
“Right now, we’re working on [getting] donations to be able to do more of that,” he said.
Before the pandemic, Jones ran a company called New World Park Solutions that designs playgrounds and park equipment that is accessible to all.
While the delivery service is different in nature, he said, there are some similarities.
“I’m an expert in making playgrounds inclusive and exclusive for everybody,” he said. “This kind of falls in [line], because it’s still people who need assistance.”
Jones said he and his volunteers maintain strict protocols to ensure the people they help stay safe.
Volunteers wear masks and gloves and carry wipes with them to clean the products they buy. They also leave delivery packages on porches and keep their distance.
“There’s no human contact,’ Jones said, adding that he’s been making approximately 20 to 30 deliveries every day.
When Jones spoke with CBC News on Wednesday, he had just made his 923rd delivery since beginning the Facebook group about five weeks ago.
Nowhere else to turn
Sherri Breaton was in a medical facility in Guelph that experienced an outbreak when she tested positive for COVID-19 about three weeks ago. Those that were healthy enough were told to go home. When she got back to her house in Windsor, she was told she needed to monitor her temperature and report to authorities, but she wasn’t sure where she would find a thermometer.
“I didn’t have one, so I called around to a couple of places like Shoppers and they pretty much almost laughed at me,” she said. “It’s like calling a store and asking if they had Lysol wipes.”
On Amazon, the expected delivery date was in late May.
When she messaged Jones, she said she told him she thought it would be a long shot. So she was surprised when she received a text message telling her she could find a thermometer in her mailbox.
“I was quite impressed,” she said.
Without Jones and his volunteers, Breaton said she would have had nowhere else to turn.
“I messaged him … and said I can’t thank you enough,” Breaton said. “I wouldn’t have any other resources. I wouldn’t know how to obtain these things.”
Fran Burbank is another person who has relied on Jones. And since she also has an auto-immune disease, not being able to leave her house during the pandemic has been a stressful experience for her.
“I’ve been anxious, especially because I am so vulnerable,” Burbank said.
“Knowing that I could reach out and get that help has been wonderful.”
She’s received grocery deliveries from volunteers, as well as one from Jones himself on one occasion.
Burbank said the service Jones has been providing has been a blessing for her.
“His priority is helping the most vulnerable,” Burbank said.
“He just seems to be tireless in his efforts to do this.”
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