In the words of Maya Angelou, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
Hoping to help the medically vulnerable, Long Beach 16-year-old Jacob Kraus is connecting those who want to “give cheerfully” with those who need to receive. The tech-savvy Poly High student has built a website to unite the two groups. His platform, COVID Connections, went live on March 19.
Jacob is no stranger to community service. As a Teen Mental Health Advisor for Teen Talk, he has helped more than 600 teens. He is also a Junior Health Scholar in the COPE Health Scholar clinical program at St. Mary Medical Center.
Samantha Lawrence teaches AP Seminar/AP Research at Poly High School and Jacob is one of her students.
“I’m not surprised that Jacob has pursued this kind of project,” Lawrence said. “Even in the face of something as big as this — Jacob’s going to find a way to do his bit. Once he figures out that he can be helpful in some way — big or small — he’s just going to do whatever it is. It’s almost as if it becomes his responsibility.”
Jacob has worked to make COVID Connections a straight-forward platform that allows users to communicate their needs and/or their ability to help. Most people want groceries, Jacob said. Toilet paper and paper towels are two of the most requested items.
To date, 42 volunteers have logged on and offered their assistance through the site. Helpers are ready and willing to shop, move furniture, or simply talk to the lonely.
Lawrence Chen, a 32-year-old engineer, said he wanted to use his time and resources for a good cause. He said his experience volunteering with COVID Connections was very smooth.
“The coordinator of COVID Connections was able to give me all the information that I needed to execute the assistance,” Chen said.
Suffering from a fever, aches, chills, and headaches, Jake Tickner said he used COVID Connections to get soup and Gatorade; given his condition, he knew it would be irresponsible to go out and get the goods himself. A friend connected him to the site and arranged for the items to be delivered.
“It was incredibly easy and felt great to know that there are people out there helping those in need,” Tickner said.
Tickner, who is 27, described the COVID Connections site as “simple to navigate.” Unfortunately, many of the people who need the website are not in the habit of using computers.
“The biggest problem I’ve had is getting the word to those most at risk (i.e. elderly) who could truly benefit from this program,” Jacob said.
Jacob has tried to spread the word in various ways: using the Nextdoor app, hanging flyers in stores, and posting on social media. He takes telephone requests from those who do not use online technology.
As a senior citizen, Judy Anderson said she feels uncomfortable shopping right now. She read about COVID Connections on Nextdoor and called Jacob for help.
“He was positive, friendly, and polite,” Anderson said. “I’m a careful shopper and very specific about brands. He called me from the store to make sure he was getting exactly what I wanted.”
The volunteers at COVID Connections are eager to reach those in need. To connect someone who needs assistance, or to join the list of helpers, go to www.covidconnections.com.