HOMETOWN HELPERS: NYC volunteer bicycle courier service delivers food, medicine as coronavirus crisis continues
Corona Couriers volunteer Greg Regaignon during a Midtown delivery.
When the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, caused a complete quarantine earlier this year, the city’s bicycle riders stepped up to help by delivering food and medicine to the most vulnerable people in their communities.
Back in New York, 31-year-old Liz Baldwin — an avid cyclist and senior librarian at the New York Public Library — was touched by how Wuhan residents turned a hobby into a vital service.
So when the library closed down in mid-March as the pandemic swept through the city, Baldwin immediately knew what to do.
“I thought as this crisis continues people are still going to need food and supplies, and since I have years of cycling experience in the city, I might be able to help my fellow New Yorker,” Baldwin said.
A few days after sharing her idea on social media, Baldwin had a team of 10 couriers offering delivery and pickup services for New Yorkers in need. Corona Couriers now has more than 300 volunteers who serve as riders and dispatchers throughout the five boroughs.
“I didn’t expect it to grow as big as it has ... it’s been both gratifying and bewildering, but I’m so grateful to everyone who has stepped up to help," Baldwin said.
Kit Hourig, 33, didn’t hesitate to pitch in after learning about the courier service on social media.
“I had missed volunteering ... and this was a way to have a connectiveness during isolation while also doing something helpful.”
According to Hourig — who is now a dispatcher — the calls for help are constant.
“We get requests every hour ... from 9 a.m. to when the sun goes down. The majority are folks that need groceries," Hourig said. “Many are children of elderly parents that have coordinated deliveries or people that need medical supplies.”
Aside from the everyday errands, Corona Couriers has also coordinated a few out-of-the-box deliveries.
“I organized a dispatch and the supplies were for a birthday," Hourig recalls.
“Because of the circumstances, having a birthday is different now and being able to make someone’s day by delivering a cake and candles was special,” she added.
Corona Couriers doesn’t just help isolated New Yorkers. The group partners with relief networks trying to aid people on the front lines of the pandemic.
Covid Collections — a website connecting donors of personal protective equipment like face shields, gloves and masks to health care workers, reached out to Corona Couriers when pickup and delivery of the PPE proved to be a problem.
“All of us are from New York and we don’t have cars, and logistics was a big point we were trying to solve,” said Tseyi Ting, 29, a Covid Collections co-founder.
Ting then “cold emailed" Corona Couriers to see if they could help get the goods to the essential workers.
“They are a big part of the success of COVID Collections," said Ting of the courier service.
“It was a tremendous amount of help and (Corona Couriers) provided the main impact. They are doing the real logistics.”