CALGARY -- A group of students from the University of Calgary have formed a volunteer program delivering groceries to seniors and at-risk Calgarians.

“We want to make sure no Calgarian goes without groceries in these trying times,” said founder Siavash Zare-Zadeh.

Zare-Zadeh is a bachelor of health sciences major at the University of Calgary and found he had a lot of spare time when classes moved online due to COVID-19 in mid-March, so he wanted to do something positive.

He realized that many Calgarians were having troubles with online grocery delivery since many stores had their delivery times booked weeks in advance and decided that would be a good place to start.

“On March 19, I posted a Kijiji ad offering to deliver people’s groceries for them and what ended up happening is that immediately I got overwhelmed with demand," he said.

In order to meet that demand, he enlisted the help of friends and classmates, Joshua Lee, Christian Cao and Jack Bieber, and with that YYC Grocery Delivery was born.

Cao is a first year bachelor of health sciences student and the volunteer coordinator for YYC Grocery Delivery. He has been blown away by what they’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time.

“What started off as a task force with just a group of our university friends has quickly become so much more,” said Cao. “We're just trying to continue to grow and continue to increase our capacity for demand just to try to help as many people who might be in need of our service as possible.”

To continue to meet demand, the four university friends started asking other classmates and U of C students to volunteer and at the end of March they began calling on Calgarians across the city to help out.

Bhakti Jani is a fourth-year university student studying psychology and has done four deliveries as a volunteer. She loves what she’s doing for the community and how it highlights what’s really important, especially now.

“It just reminds me how it is always important to be kind and compassionate, especially during this time because we’re all in this together and this is challenging for all of us,” said Bhakti.

Terry Keelan, 63, suffers from respiratory problems and mobility issues and received an order from Jani Tuesday morning. Keelan is amazed by what they are doing and what it means for the community and the future.

“It gives you hope that the young people are stepping up,” said Keelan. “They are taking risks, because this doesn’t discriminate about age or who you are, so it gives me some hope.”

YYC Grocery Delivery has 117 volunteers and has done more than 75 deliveries around the city. They are expecting that number to increase everyday as word of mouth helps share their cause with the community.

Payments are accepted through Interac, e-transfer or cash and the client is only charged as much as their bill with no extra charges for delivery.

To sign up as a volunteer, for a delivery, or for more information, visit the YYC Grocery Delivery website.

With files from Sean Marks