“I was running out of fresh fruit,” explained Maureen “Mo” McFadden of how she heard about the three-week-old grocery delivery service Zoomers to Boomers last week. A well-known public relations consultant who’s worked in Santa Barbara for decades, McFadden is 68 years old, which puts her in the high-risk category for catching a bad case of COVID-19.
“I love creative people, so the name of the group made me smile,” she said of the service, which was started on March 18 by San Marcos High student Daniel Goldberg and has since expanded to multiple cities. “I read their webpage and ordered on Wednesday late morning. They said the groceries would be delivered in 24 hours.”
A day later, McFadden’s order arrived. “My shopper, Gage [Heinze], brought the right stuff,” she explained. From Trader Joe’s, there were raspberries, blueberries, avocados, pears, salsa verde, and Indian tikka packets — the correct kind, as she had added a note for “anything but the red package.”
From Smart & Final, she wanted a large two-pack of Mexican shredded cheese by Kraft, but Heinze called to ask about buying another brand, as the Kraft was sold out. She got one package of that, plus jugs of white vinegar, two packs of Thomas’ English Muffins, and AAA batteries. “I also asked for Scott one-ply tissue,” said McFadden, “but there was none to be had.” (The only other snafu was that the espresso beans she wanted ground at the store couldn’t happen either, as Smart & Final closed the grinding stations.)
McFadden admits to getting a little antsy when it hit 4 p.m. on Thursday, as the 24-hour window was closing. But she simply sent a note through the site and got a quick callback from Heinze as he shopped. “That was a gift, to be able to call him back and ask for more blueberries,” she said. “Love those little berries full of antioxidants!”
Heinze texted her the final cost, so she put the cash in an envelope, with a $5 donation to help those most in need. The site also allows Venmo transfers. Heinze arrived wearing gloves and a mask, stayed at a safe distance, and left the two bags on the porch. McFadden cleaned all of the packages with Lysol wipes.
McFadden has already placed her second order, and noticed that the staff of five has grown to more than a dozen in just a few days. “I bet they are busy little bees,” she said.
Zoomers to Boomers founder Daniel Goldberg confirmed as much this week. “So far we have served a few hundred locally and more nationwide,” said Goldberg, who’s met with many groups from other cities to explain how the service works and how to set up a website. “We currently have around 30 local volunteers and somewhere from 80 to 100 total volunteers across the country. We would love to have more volunteers.”
Goldberg started the service on March 18. “The idea really stemmed from watching my dad go to work at the Cottage ER, while I was at home,” he said. “I felt like I needed to do something, too. That’s when I realized that there could be members of our community who are sheltering in place but are really at greater risk than the rest of us.”
So he created the Zoomers to Boomers website to help elderly and immunocompromised neighbors by delivering groceries. His first mention of it was on the neighborhood website Next Door. “Almost immediately, it took off,” said Goldberg. Multiple media reports followed.
Already, the service is evolving. “We were blown away by the number of requests, so quickly we had to rethink our strategy so that we could help the largest number of people possible,” said Goldberg, who began partnering with Gladden and Sons, Holdren’s, The Berry Man, and Foodland, all of whom accept orders from their clients. “These vendors will package up the requested groceries and take payment,” he explained. “This allows us to focus on delivery.” They are still accepting about 20 specialized deliveries at grocery stores each week, said Goldberg, “but as these are very labor intensive, we hope that most people will try the first option.”
There are now Zoomers to Boomers sites in Denver, Miami, Salt Lake City, Honolulu, and Greenwich, Connecticut, with more likely on the way. With the support of a pro bono attorney and from donors such as the Towbes Foundation, Goldberg also believes that there will be life for the organization even when the pandemic subsides. “There is a real need to help the elderly and immunocompromised not only in our community, but throughout the U.S.,” he said.
For now, Zoomers to Boomers is delivering much needed nourishment to our most vulnerable neighbors. “This service was a life-saver, in more ways than one,” said McFadden. “I didn’t have to venture out and these kids are being very careful not to spread any germs.”
To volunteer, donate, or order groceries, see zoomerstoboomers.com.
At the Santa Barbara Independent, our staff is working around the clock to cover every aspect of this crisis — sorting truth from rumor. Our reporters and editors are asking the tough questions of our public health officials and spreading the word about how we can all help one another. The community needs us — now more than ever — and we need you in order to keep doing the important work we do. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution.