(CNN)It started with two Maryland teenagers volunteering to help get groceries for elderly neighbors. Now their free delivery service, called "Teens Helping Seniors," is rapidly scaling up to match an increasing number of requests with their growing network of teenage volunteers.
Teens start free no-contact delivery service for the elderly during the pandemic
Like many teenagers, 16-year-old Dhruv Pai and 15-year-old Matt Casertano have been out of school for weeks.
"We were both helping out our families, delivering groceries to our grandparents, and we thought 'what about the people who do not have family in the area?'" Casertano told CNN. "'What if we started some organization to connect teens to the senior citizens and anyone who has a compromised immune system, where going outside is a substantial risk to them?'"
The two high school sophomores designed a no-contact delivery service. Senior citizens email their grocery list and are then connected with a volunteer teenager living nearby.
"The teen will have the proper sanitation equipment, and they will wipe down all the surfaces, following CDC guidelines," explained Pai.
There's no face-to-face contact. The volunteers leave the groceries at the front door and pick up the cash or check left for them to cover costs.
Payment can also be made through online services such as Venmo. The volunteers follow up on the phone with their "customer" to make sure they delivered everything that was ordered.
As word of mouth about their service quickly spread, Pai and Casertano were inundated with delivery requests. But they were also hearing from a lot of teenagers who wanted to help. They now have 65 volunteers with more joining each day.
"There is a negative portrayal of teens and I think our organization is reversing that stereotype, and people are seeing that teens can really benefit the community," Pai told CNN. "I think there is still altruism in this generation, and we can spread that. Spreading kindness is a good message."
The teens' calls often go beyond just groceries.
"A lot of these seniors need someone to talk to and the opportunity to connect for a bit," explained Pai. "It inspires me that we might be able to bridge the generational gap."
Teens Helping Seniors has made over 80 deliveries, with many seniors signed up for a weekly service.
"What caught us by surprise, after one delivery to a senior, they would tell 10 of their friends who would then reach out to us," explained Casertano. "We have had 20 deliveries in the last 24 hours, so we are having pretty steep growth."
They have also heard from teens from other states who want to start their own service.
"So if a teenager wants to start a similar project in their area, they can email us at TeensHelpingSeniors@gmail.com. We have a lot of resources to manage volunteers, deliveries, we even have a website that they can use. We will give it all to someone who wants to do this." Casertano told CNN. "You will be surprised, just like we were, at how many of your peers will join you on something like this."