When Chloe Riven ‘21 was abruptly forced to return to the United States early from studying abroad in Italy back in February, just as the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to gain its footing in the country and across the globe, she was dumbfounded. “I was caught off guard,” she said. “I did not realize the virus was so urgent and serious since it was just the beginning of it.” However, Riven decided to turn what could have been a source of frustration and disappointment into a way to help others. “After reading a lot about the risks and challenges essential workers are facing, I wanted to take action, respond and find a way to help people in the COVID-19 pandemic,” she explained. Riven quickly joined up with a group of friends to create a website called Give Essential. This organization makes it possible for people to send packages filled with necessities such as toiletries, cleaning supplies, masks and children’s activities to “essential workers,” a term for individuals such as grocery store employees and healthcare professionals who are working on the front lines of the pandemic.
The website, GiveEssential.org, whose motto is “Connecting essential workers to essential items,” works like this: visitors, whether workers seeking goods or individuals looking to donate them, are instructed to fill out a form indicating what items they are either in need of or are willing to donate. Essential workers are required to verify their status. “We require proof of employment dated within a month of their sign-up that includes their name, employer and job title,” said Riven. Give Essential then matches each donor with one or more essential workers based on similarities between what the worker needs and what the donor has. The donor then has the option of dropping off items at the worker’s house or mailing them. Those who are unable to donate any items still have the option to donate to the Give Essential GoFundMe. Any money that is donated is used to pay for items for essential workers who do not get matched with a donor, as well as to cover the operational costs of the organization.
Give Essential has helped connect donors to over 10,000 essential workers and raised over $500,000 since its inception. The efforts of Riven and her friends to help essential workers has not gone unnoticed. The organization has been featured in multiple major news outlets including CNN, Huffington Post and MSN. Give Essential has also received praise from essential workers themselves, some of whose personal situations have been featured on the website. These range from an immunocompromised healthcare worker to a truck driver with a sick wife to numerous workers struggling to make ends meet. Riven said that it is these workers who serve as the inspiration for the project and who ultimately fulfill and motivate her and her friends to keep serving their communities. “Being a volunteer with my friends to start up this organization has flourished into countless hours dedicated to service, which is what fulfills me the most. This is one of my contributions to help the greater good in response to this pandemic,” she said.