Man helps those too anxious to shop

Griffin Brody walks up the front steps of a little house, gently sets the three bags of groceries down on the doorstep, knocks twice, and retreats to his black Mercedes-Benz SUV.

“Someone reached out, said their elderly grandparent needed assistance. I was happy to offer that assistance,” says Brody, 23, as he puts the vehicle in drive and pulls away from the curve, never looking back at the house. “I really haven’t taken any steps to verify the people that I’m delivering to, but … if I don’t get paid back, it is what it is. I don’t think this is really the time to be worried (about that).”

What has been worrying him?

The current plight of the area’s older and retired, a population believed to be among the most at-risk as the global coronavirus pandemic starts to try to gain a foothold in and around Charlotte — and a population that is struggling to decide how safe it is to venture out to a crowded grocery store.

Brody — a 2019 University of Tennessee graduate who moved to Charlotte last August to work for Cornelius-based start-up PetScreening as part of a fellowship offered by Venture for America — first tried to get his message out on the social news website Reddit.

He got offers for help, but no requests. Someone also suggested he try posting to Nextdoor. Brody hadn’t heard of it.

“Nextdoor is kind of a local Facebook, mostly for boomers,” the person told him. “If you are looking to help local seniors, it is absolutely the spot, because everyone would know everyone on a local level.”

It worked. His phone started buzzing. And by the end of the day, he’d made three runs.

One older gentleman, Brody says, contacted him just looking for someone to talk to; he met him for coffee one Saturday morning. Another person asked him if he’d go to Lowe’s and pick up some nails for them. Just some nails. Brody obliged.

So far, Brody says, he hasn’t collected money for any of the groceries he’s bought. And while he certainly hopes that he’ll get reimbursed, like he said — ultimately, it’s not about the money.

“I’ve lost both grandparents in the last 12 months … and it was difficult,” he says, as he stands on the grass outside a Harris Teeter grocery store. “I mean, I loved my grandparents as much as anyone in the world. So it was hard, and I really — if I can do anything to stop someone from having to go through that sooner than they would normally have to, I would like to. … I hope that, at least, this pandemic sort of gets people talking to their grandparents a little bit more. That was a big thing for me. … I kept pushing off just sending a text or a call, and then, of course, it was too late.

“So I hope this gives people a little bit more time to cherish their loved ones.”

Then he smiles, politely excuses himself, and hurries off to help another person in need.