AUSTIN (KXAN) – Need help during the coronavirus pandemic? Ask. That’s how it starts, and within moments, help is around the corner.
“My kids… and my dog have nothing at all to drink but water. And I have nothing to cook for them,” wrote a Bastrop father recently laid off. “If anyone could help with anything it would mean a lot.”
His list included milk, fruit and snacks for kids. A few minutes later, others quickly responded wanting to fulfill those needs.
Other posts include requests for diapers, wipes and over-the-counter medications.
“Both of us lost our job. We lost our apartment and now car,” posted a mother from Austin. “We need food bad and toilet paper.”
Dozens of people responded to that mother on Intellihelp, a Facebook group created about two weeks ago.
“It’s the right thing to do and no one else was doing it,” explains founder Ron Lynch. “I’m not doing it. The world’s doing it for themselves. We’re just telling them how, and our volunteers are helping.”
Lynch says the process is pretty simple. A person posts with the word “Ask” and their city, along with what they need. Then, a volunteer “Intellihelp angel” responds and coordinates delivery through a private message and updates posts with the word “Fulfilled.”
Members can buy groceries through Instacart, Amazon or any other grocery store. One order a week is allowed and members are told they can’t ask for money.
“This gives the real transparency to everybody. So, they can say I know when I gave $35 to that family it was delivered to their house, because I bought the merchandise,” explains Lynch.
The group was starting to see a dire need to help pets, too. Lynch says they decided to start a separate page just for furry family members called Intellihelp Pets.
Lynch says volunteers monitor both pages and flag anything that looks suspicious and if someone doesn’t follow the group rules.
“We follow the rules with a team, and it’s getting to be a large team of volunteer moderators, which we set guidelines for and we’re constantly on electronic tools with each other, including slack messenger monitoring, and it’s just like a big call center,” explains Lynch.
The “Ask” posts continue to grow, but so do the appreciations. “I want to thank my angel,” said one member sharing a picture of a counter full of food. “Thank you so much for your kindness. From my family to yours bless you.”
Lynch is working with teams across the world to launch in other countries. He says the number of volunteers are growing and within days, a website will also be up to help facilitate requests.