Some of the inconveniences of being asked to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic happened immediately: runs on bread, milk, eggs, toilet paper and spirits.
But as social distancing progressed, other needs became apparent: Some homebound seniors were unable to drive to pick up food or prescriptions, non-computer savvy people had to apply for unemployment compensation and questions loomed about stimulus checks and eligibility.
A group of Mt. Lebanon and Dormont staff and elected officials had already been preparing to fill the gap with needed information and action. The group, which calls itself Neighborhood Aid, launched its outreach efforts on April 13. Residents of Dormont and Mt. Lebanon could get help by reaching out in two ways: call the customer service representative at 412-253-4104 weekdays from 9 to 5 or go online to neighborhoodaid.org.
When the request involves another service organization, such as a food pantry or state office, Neighborhood Aid will link the resident with valuable resources. If the request is for an errand, the service will connect the resident in need with a volunteer from a pool of trained, caring residents.
The service is free, although residents are expected to pay for purchases they request.
Mt. Lebanon Commercial Districts Manager Eric Milliron is the staff lead on the project, and the organizing committee includes Mt. Lebanon commissioners Mindy Ranney and Craig Grella, state Rep. Dan Miller and his staff lead, Sheryl Cohen, Mt. Lebanon Municipal Manager Keith McGill, Mt. Lebanon Information Technology Director Nick Schalles, Mt. Lebanon Public Information Officer Laura Pace Lilley and call-taker Sandy Kyper, as well as Dormont Borough Manager Ben Estell, Councilwomen Joanna Bouldin and Kate Abel, and call-taker Bethany Bachman.
As of this writing, many of the calls centered around applying for unemployment compensation, with others requesting errands such as picking up groceries from a shopping list.
But the most overwhelming response during the early days of operation didn’t come from people who needed help. In the first week after launch, more than 70 people stepped up to offer to become volunteers for Neighborhood Aid.
The service will remain active as long as the communities see a need.