Waymo collaborates with nonprofit to deliver help - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Waymo collaborates with nonprofit to deliver help

August 17th, 2021 development
Waymo collaborates with nonprofit to deliver help

By Sydney Mackie

A recent collaboration between the non-profit organization AZCEND and Waymo, an autonomous vehicle developer based in Chandler, is revolutionizing humanitarian projects in the Valley.

The two operations first connected last summer when Waymo offered to lend their technology and coordination experience to the non-profit.

Now, Valley residents can spot Waymo’s blue-wrapped minivans on their way to bring essentials to Arizona’s citizens.

“As a non-profit, we can’t do our work without partnerships in the community and Waymo has been a great partner to us for over a year,” AZCEND CEO Trinity Donovan explained.

“They’ve helped us with the logistics of getting food bags from our food bank to our senior center where then, our volunteers will transfer those bags alongside our Meals on Wheels meals. So, in addition to the Meals on Wheels, seniors have the ability to request a food bag.”

According to Donovan, since the joint effort with Waymo began, AZCEND has been able to provide over 2,000 meals to homebound seniors.

Donovan said they have seen over a 110 percent increase in need and doubled their usual number of Meals on Wheels deliveries.

“They connected with us to see if we had any needs for deliveries to go from one of our sites to the others,” she said. “We let them know that this would be an opportunity because otherwise, we would need staff or volunteers to drive and get all of the bags stationed then go to the right location.

“It’s great to have Waymo as a reliable pickup method for us, every week they are picking up food bags for seniors which we then get out.”

Now, these volunteers can utilize their time delivering on other routes or helping with the group’s other charitable programs across the Valley.

Those programs include services for families with children who are under 5, those who require renter’s assistance, and individuals experiencing homelessness.

“It’s important for us to be convenient for people who have needs or are in crisis,” Donovan added.

Even with self-driving cars, due to the organization’s many services, programs and locations, AZCEND still needs passionate and dedicated volunteers.

“We need more volunteers to help us with the increase in routes, so it’s a great opportunity for someone who has a couple of free hours a week during lunchtime,” Donovan said.

“It’s a really impactful volunteer job because often the person who is delivering the meal is the only person the participant will see that day. The meal is important, but the brief social interaction lets our participants know that others care about them.”

Under the most recent guidelines by the Arizona Department of Health Services, vulnerable adults in care homes are allowed indoor visitation if greater than 70 percent of residents are vaccinated but still advise for a six-foot distance, mask requirements and frequent symptom screening.

Over a year, Donovan and her organization have seen that “something as simple as food can help people keep their home, their concentration and reduce doctor visits when they have the nutrition they need.”

Moving forward, AZCEND is determined to continue providing its aid to disadvantaged communities as they have done without pause throughout the pandemic.

“We have such an amazing staff who care about the community and people we serve and so that and our volunteers have enabled us to get through it but it’s still a challenge to provide our services in the safest way possible as the pandemic continues to change. We don’t quite know what will happen next, but we do know people will still be in need of our services,” Donovan said.