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San Marcos residents launch volunteer group helping at-risk neighbors

SAN MARCOS — What began as a post on a social media website, Nextdoor, has spiraled into a 60-member strong volunteer group in San Marcos.

The San Marcos COVID-19 Neighbor Assistance Program is a newly created group where volunteers help their at-risk neighbors in running errands. The group, which began with just a handful of low-risk volunteers, offers daily assistance in tasks such as grocery delivery, prescription pickups and check-ins.

“The San Marcos COVID-19 Assistance Program wants to spread a message of hope and compassion by serving and loving our neighbors who are at risk of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sethu Madhava, who co-founded the group. “San Marcos is full of loving, compassionate and kind people. During this time of social distancing, many elders and at-risk members of our community need assistance for picking up groceries or prescriptions, picking up and delivering a meal, or simply call them and check on them every couple of days.”

Madhava, who has lived in San Marcos with his wife and two daughters for 18 years, said the group now has 60 volunteers with more people signing up every day. Those volunteers are helping about 15 families in their daily errands.

“We wanted to provide an easily accessible service to our neighbors who were deemed at-risk of COVID-19 and also create a centralized way for volunteers to sign up to help,” Madhava said.

Madhava said the San Marcos COVID-19 Assistance Program has proved to be crucial during the pandemic as people struggle to complete their errands while also keeping safe.

“Many of our community members are going through a rough time and are unable to independently perform the errands they used to in order to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Madhava said. “Many people are afraid that going out will exacerbate their chronic illness and cannot risk their life. So many members of our community have lost their jobs and are unable to afford food for their families.”

For volunteer Debra Driza, the group has also helped her through the crisis. She said prior to the group, she was “stuck in a seemingly endless loop of surfing Twitter and news sites.”

“Mostly, I fretted about things over which I had zero control, like the rising hospitalization rates in other countries, and how those issues might soon be our fate here at home,” said Driza, who has lived in San Marcos since 2003. “My constant information-seeking wasn’t helping anyone. Then a moment of clarity struck: What if I channeled that anxiety into something productive? What if, instead of the relentless worrying, I took action to try to help protect the most vulnerable among us?”

Driza said the pandemic has given her the boost she needed to get to know her neighbors and learn about ways she can help the community.

That is just one message the group hopes to send to the public: There are neighbors who might need your help.

“We also want to set an example for other neighborhoods who can also help support elderly and at-risk members of their community as well,” Madhava said. “This is an unusual and stressful time for everyone, but we can still make a positive impact and put a smile on someone’s face.”

Most importantly, Madhava said he just wants people to know that there are neighbors who care.

“We believe the recipients, just knowing that somebody is looking out for them, gives them the comfort level and reduces the risk,” Madhava said. “This group is here for our community members to lean on during this tough time, so we can all come out of this stronger. We hope with our assistance our community members get through this pandemic with minimal disruption and impact.”

For more information about the San Marcos COVID-19 Neighbor Assistance Program, go to  SanMarcosCovid19he.wixsite.com/help or call 442-999-4887.

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