MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Lylla McKee was worried about her grandmother during the pandemic. The 13-year-old Mahopac resident was concerned that her grandma, who lives in Queens, wasn’t able to get out and go grocery shopping, go to the library and perform other chores because she was too nervous to leave her home.
While there wasn’t much Lylla could do for her grandmother, she thought she might be able to help local seniors who suffer from the same anxieties about going out and catching the coronavirus. So, she formed the Mahopac Holiday Helpers, a team of volunteers who throughout the holiday season will help seniors get the things they need without leaving the house. The idea wasn’t for a school project or to win a Girl Scout badge—she just wanted to do it.
“My grandma is nervous about going out to get groceries and going to the library, so I thought I could help people without them being nervous,” said Lylla, who is in the eighth grade at Rippowam Cisqua in Bedford. “It’s something I am doing on my own.”
Lylla went to her parents and asked if she could create a website both to enlist volunteers and to find those who may need the service. She didn’t hire a company to build the site. Instead, she used the coding and programming skills she learned at school to do it on her own.
“I worked on it on my mom’s MacBook,” she said. “It was really fun. I did a lot of programming and coding for the robotics team in school.”
On the website—mahopacholidayhelpers.com—Lylla writes, “We know that this holiday season will be challenging for senior citizens because of the pandemic. We would love to help any way we can! We are teenagers from Mahopac that are willing to run local errands and do some light grocery shopping for you, completely free of charge. Our volunteers will be happy to deliver your items directly to your door. Just let us know how we can help!”
Lylla’s volunteers will perform local Mahopac errands including trips to the post office and dry cleaners, return library books, do light grocery shopping (limited to 15 items or less) and light holiday shopping (limited to the local area). They will shop for the items and leave them at the client’s door for safe, contactless delivery. Clients can pay by check or with Venmo.
She also seeks more volunteers, and the website will direct them on how fill out the volunteer form. All volunteers must wear masks while shopping and follow social-distancing protocols. For those under 18, permission from a parent is required.
“I put it on my mom’s Facebook page and people saw it and volunteered,” she said. “I have 18 volunteers so far.”
While Lylla hasn’t lined up any clients yet, she posted the service on the Mahopac Mom’s Facebook page and hopes that will get the word out.
“All my friends thought it was a good idea,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lylla’s parents are impressed with their daughter’s compassion.
“We are so proud of her,” said her mom, Kristen. “She couldn’t help my mom, but she thought she could help others.”
Which, after all, is what the holiday spirit is all about.