It is no secret that senior citizens make up the most vulnerable and at-risk segment of society during the current coronavirus pandemic. 

Men and women who prided themselves on their ability to manage their own affairs including grocery shopping now have to think twice. An infection that might hospitalize a younger person for a few days could very easily kill an older person. Most fatalities in fact have been among the elderly, who are encouraged to stay completely at home if possible.

But in today’s society, where many of the elderly either do not have children or only children who live at a great distance, ordinary shopping presents a real risk.

Fortunately, there are those among the young who are willing to step up to assist this most vulnerable population.

One such group still in its infancy is Shop4Seniors, the brainchild of Robert Esgro, who is just completing his freshman year at Penn State University. He has enlisted  young volunteers from his own circle — his parish, St. Thomas of Villanova; his  former school, the Haverford School and Penn State. 

The process is simple. An elderly person draws up a list which he or she emails or calls in to Shop4Seniors, and a young adult goes shopping and delivers the items, usually food. There is no delivery charge or tip. The person served pays just what is on the store receipt. 

One recipient, “Olivia” in Drexel Hill, commented, “The volunteer was great, and we are grateful for the service that Shop4Seniors provided. Thank you so much for helping our family.”

While food is the biggest item, it could be almost anything else, for instance prescriptions at the drug store. As Esgro recalls, one gentleman simply wanted his dry-cleaning picked up.

As to why he started this initiative, Esgro said, “Charity is one of the pillars of Catholicism and it has been in my blood my entire life.” Also, “Haverford is a very service-oriented school,” he added.

Shop4Seniors is not just limited to the Philadelphia area. With about 35 volunteers at this point, they are mostly drawn from Esgro’s circle of friends scattered throughout Pennsylvania. His best buddy at Haverford, Mickey Fairorth, cannot directly participate because he is in his first year at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

But through him Esgro was introduced to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Persons with Disabilities, which was more than happy to post this new service for senior citizens on its website.

The group’s own website explains the mission: “Shop4Seniors was founded as a means of aiding older Pennsylvanians at high risk of infection during the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. Shop4Seniors helps with essential activities such as buying groceries or other goods that a person may want or need but is unable to get out of fear of contracting the virus.”

“Even after the pandemic is over, I would love to see this grow and for us to deepen our relationship with the archdiocese,” Esgro said. 

As it is, “we’ve gotten a ton of new people since we partnered with the archdiocese,” he said.

For more information visit the website or call Robert Esgro at 215-629-6555.