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Unable to make assists on the field, Aztecs' Rieder starts nonprofit assisting seniors

Unable to make assists on the field, Aztecs’ Rieder starts nonprofit assisting seniors

April is usually a time when San Diego State women’s soccer would begin its spring practice schedule to prepare for the upcoming fall season.

A typical week consists of training every morning at 7 a.m., weight room three days a week, team meetings and spring scrimmages.

In the matter of days, the coronavirus changed this normal schedule. The hope that adjustments could be made vanished when student-athletes living on campus were sent home by the university.

These changes didn’t stop rhirt sophomore Abbie Rieder from putting in work, but this time her work looked a bit different than that on the soccer field.

This midfielder saw the effects of the coronavirus in San Diego and decided she would make a difference.

The 20-year-old started her own chapter of a nonprofit called Leave It To Us, which is a no-fee COVID-19 grocery shopping service for seniors. The goal is to help out immunocompromised people who cannot visit stores during this time.

“One of my friends in L.A. actually asked me to help her start a chapter there,” Rieder said. “I was like ‘Oh, unfortunately I’m living in San Diego.’ So then I decided to look into starting a chapter here and just had some Zoom meetings and set some things up.”

A typical week for Rieder now consists of checking emails, reaching out to seniors who may be in need and making several grocery store trips to deliver essential items to those who have reached out for help.

The process consists of volunteers paying out-of-pocket while shopping. The volunteers are then reimbursed upon delivering to the senior’s home. The organization is working on raising funds to reduce the amount seniors will have to pay.

Leave It To Us originally started in Chicago by University of Alabama student Michael Arundel. He came up with the idea a little over a month ago when he returned home from school. It instantly became a popular service in Chicago, then eventually began to expand nationwide.

Word-of-mouth and social media are ways many people have gotten involved, like Rieder herself.

“It’s been really awesome because there’s actually a huge need for this kind of service,” Rieder said. “The combination of things just put people in this lockdown that prevents them from being able to get their essential ne, so it’s been really awesome to be able to help those people.”

By advertising on social media and contacting the pre-health organizations at SDSU and Cal State San Marcos, Rieder has been able to form a team of volunteers who are on a mission of helping people in need. She also reached out to her home church, The Rock Church, where many people from the young adult ministry were ready to help in an instant.

Rieder has seen her team continue to grow each week.

At one point, 15 volunteers seemed like a lot, but now her team has grown to about 30 volunteers.

Leave It To Us volunteer Andrea Santos loads her car up with groceries to deliver to seniors. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Santos)

A local San Diego resident Chris Petersen, who lives on his own without any family to help him, sent an email to Rieder asking for help.

“I am 56 years old and live with medical conditions,” Petersen wrote in an email. “I take all precautions, but still it is very scary. I have everything I need right now, but if you would consider helping me in the future it would definitely ease some anxiety. I have no family in this country. If I get sick I am on my own.”

Clients like Petersen, who are in big need for help, are what inspires Rieder and her team to lend a helping hand.

During the peak of the busy period, Rieder and her team were making about 20 grocery runs a week. The need for groceries calmed down once seniors were fully stocked for a week or two.

However, Rieder foresees an influx coming again soon.

For Rieder, the most rewarding part of this journey has been hearing the reactions of how much of a difference this service is making in people’s lives.

“Definitely seeing the response from seniors,” Rieder said, referring to the most gratifying part of her service. “I’ll get emails from them of their genuine gratitude for what we are doing. Even in their emails, you can tell how desperate they are for groceries and how grateful they are to have this service.”

Petersen shared his thoughts with The Daily Aztec about how thankful he is for the services the organization has provided him.

“Older and disabled people feel extremely vulnerable in these times,” he said. “It’s not just about groceries, it’s about knowing that there are good people and you are not alone.

Watching the volunteers arrive at his door is a feeling of hope that things will be okay. It was a moment that Petersen still can’t find the words to express his thankfulness for.

“I was so grateful for what they did for me,” he said. “It was one less chance of being infected which could mean living a bit longer. How do you thank someone for that? Words seem inadequate.”

Another special aspect of this journey for Rieder has been seeing the support from her Aztec teammates. Seniors Malia Kaleiohi and Veronica Avalos have joined the movement.

“Volunteering for Leave It To Us has given me the opportunity to meet so many new people while practicing social distancing,” Avalos said in a direct message. “The people who I have had the opportunity to help have expressed an overwhelming amount of appreciation and gratitude.”

Additionally, Avalos is grateful for the larger perspective volunteering has brought her.

“This pandemic has forced us to stay away from each other, but I have never felt closer to the people I have helped,” Avalos said.

Rieder said there’s something special about a team coming together and sharing similar goals of helping those who need it most.

“It’s so awesome to have people who are not only my teammates but my best friends who also have the heart to serve and are willing to help with this movement,” Rieder said. “It just makes it really special and just super thankful to have people who are close to me and who have the same kind of goals for society as I do.”

The nation’s hope is that COVID-19 will end sooner rather than later. However, Rieder said she looks to continue moving forward the works of Leave It To Us beyond the time of the coronavirus.

Even after the pandemic, many of these seniors still have struggles they face such as not being able to drive or other health issues.

Rieder is continually looking for volunteers to join the movement, and is always reaching out to communities who may have people in need of her services with Leave It To Us. Those interested in volunteering or those who need help with groceries can contact Rieder at sdleaveittous@gmail.com. Their services extend south to Chula Vista, as far north as Oceanside and east to El Cajon.