Volunteer Spotlight: Dartmouth students’ website gets life’s essentials to essential workers

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2020 9:57:32 PM
Modified: 4/18/2020 9:57:26 PM

Rine Uhm and Amy Guan were roommates at Dartmouth College until the COVID-19 pandemic sent the campus to remote learning.

Once at home, Uhm in Hanover and Guan in Princeton, N.J., they began reading about the needs of essential workers — including grocery store employees and delivery drivers — and knew they wanted to do something to help support them.

“We started playing around with ideas of how we could help these people without leaving our houses,” said Uhm, a sophomore. “We realized a lot of really big problems they were facing were lack of access to things like soap.”

On April 10 the duo launched Give Essential, an organization that matches essential workers with donors who can send much-needed items to them directly. Their categories include COVID prevention supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer, personal hygiene products such as soap and shampoo, feminine hygiene products, activities for children such as games and puzzles, and monetary gifts including gas cards.

“Donors can sign up to give any items from any of those categories,” Uhm said.

Essential workers requesting items must also submit proof of their employment in an essential field.

“A lot of the essential workers are delivery drivers, so they have apps where we can see how many orders they have so they can send us a screenshot of that,” Guan, a senior, said.

When donors sign up, they are asked to list what they can provide. After donors and workers sign up, Guan, Uhm and other volunteers match them. For example, someone with extra puzzles to donate might be matched with an essential worker who is looking for activities for their children.

“Just by sending them games and toys, that can make such an impact on the kid’s life and the family’s well-being,” Uhm said.

Give Essential is for essential workers and donors all around the country. Last week, Uhm connected with a family friend who had toys to donate. She planned on sending them to three essential workers in Colorado.

Donors can drop off items directly for essential workers or mail them. Items like gas cards can be sent electronically.

“Within the first 24 hours, we had reached 300 essential workers,” Uhm said. “We’ve found that our geographic distribution has been very spread out.”

Essential workers have also shared their personal stories with the organization. Some are the sole income earners after other family members were laid off. They’ve heard from health care workers who have traveled to hard-hit states to assist in the coronavirus response and need shampoo.

“We’ve learned more about how these essential workers have been impacted,” Guan said. “It provides a human aspect that is really emotional and really heartwarming when we’re able to find matches for them.”

They’ve also had donors who are offering their time.

A preschool teacher reached out to Give Essential to offer to give instruction via Zoom, “which is a really neat way just to incorporate not only physical gifts, but your time and interest in helping any way you can,” according to Guan.

“We are just really inspired by the stories we’ve gotten and how much we can help and how much of an impact we can make,” Guan said.

Editor’s note: For more information, visit giveessential.org.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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