Stocking Up on Goodwill

Photo by Mitch Lehman / The Review
Shoppers line up outside of Trader Joe’s in South Pasadena. Looking for a way to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of local residents have volunteered to shop for senior citizens and others who are challenged by going out in public.

Though its streets now resemble those of a ghost town, the volunteer spirit in South Pasadena is alive, well and patrolling the aisles of local grocery stores. Thanks to an all-star assemblage of do-gooders who last week were looking for a way to help out as the community went on COVID-19-induced lockdown.
“As things seemed to be getting worse, about a dozen of us communicated and thought ‘What can we do that’s actually helpful?’” said Ed Donnelly, in his typical self-deprecating manner. “We wanted to be very practical about it. Given the chaos that was taking place at grocery stores and the fact that we have a large population of senior citizens who are quite vulnerable, we came up with a plan.”
Donnelly and his cohorts met with community members and came away with a mission.
“Everybody was consistent,” said Donnelly, who last month received the esteemed Golden Apple Award from the South Pasadena Unified School District, which acknowledges volunteerism above and beyond the call of duty. “It was basically, ‘take my list and go shopping for me.’ They were looking for things they eat and use on a weekly basis. They were very specific.”
Within 48 hours, the plan was launched and volunteers were ready to hit local grocery stores. Donnelly credits members of local PTAs, the South Pasadena Education Foundation, Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Action and Dads Uniting Dads in Education and Service for coming together in support of the project, which is called the South Pasadena Volunteer Grocery Shoppers program. Senior citizens, those with compromised health conditions and families with special needs students, and others unable to fend for themselves in grocery stores are welcome to request assistance with shopping and the purchase of pharmaceuticals in order to reduce their exposure to the coronavirus.
The first shopping trip took place on Sunday, and Donnelly said that there have been more than a dozen requests for assistance, but the group expects more when initial supplies subside.
Drivers will even handle the initial financial transaction and are reimbursed through a program that is set up through the DUDES’ nonprofit status. The service follows a strict “no-contact” policy and will adhere to social distancing protocol throughout the transaction.
Community members are also invited to make a tax-deductible donation to the program to insure its existence or if the group needs to make a bulk purchase, “maybe for a lot of toilet paper,” Donnelly quipped.
Those in need of service, want to become volunteers or are willing to make a donation are encouraged to call (626) 667-4378 — a number created specifically for this purpose — or visit
“Please call,” said Donnelly. “We knew that people were fairly stocked up, but we expect that this will ramp up a little bit and in the next week or two there will be a need.”