Parent group distributes essential items to students in need

Parents in the Local USC Moms and Dads On Call Facebook group volunteered to collect and distribute toilet paper and other critical supplies to students without family nearby after discovering students were having difficulty finding the items in grocery stores. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

In an effort to alleviate stress during the coronavirus pandemic, the Local USC Moms and Dads On Call group has begun to distribute free bags of toilet paper, ramen noodles and other snacks to USC students living on or near campus.

According to Rory Bennett, the founder of the group, the initiative arose from students’ messages to her requesting assistance in supplying basic necessities during this period of quarantine. 

“[The delivery] began because we started hearing from students and checking in with students that were remaining in off-campus apartments mostly that ‘Hey, I’m kind of running low on toilet paper’ … and that the grocery shelves at Ralphs, Trader Joe’s and Target were hit-and-miss,” said Bennett, an alumna and parent of a USC student. 

Bennett began asking local parents to stockpile toilet paper and other relevant goods during their own shopping errands. 

Karni Block Syed, a parent of a USC student, donated toilet paper she had bought for an annual camping trip to be delivered to the Trojan community. 

“I donated just 39 rolls, but we’ve been able to accumulate, as a group, so many,” Syed said. “Tons and tons of students got donated toilet paper rolls, tons and tons. It’s unbelievable how the parents have come together and worked hard to make sure that the students had what they needed.”

Involvement grew as out-of-state parents donated money to replenish the supplies. Bennett made the initiative official by creating a flyer on Facebook and spreading the word to friends and families of students who need the support. 

“Even before we started just getting our little flyer out to some students we know that have helped us at events and our members of our groups, they got it out to their friends,” Bennett said. “The minute it went out on [March] 26 to friends, the [students] started texting ‘We need it, we need it.'”

The initiative began with local parents delivering the goods, but social distancing guidelines and the stay-at-home order required the group to change plans.

“We’re going to do whatever we can to get [the goods] to [the students],” Bennett said. “The students were texting their locations, and we were dropping off [bags]. [There] was such a strong need — I [received] like 200 texts, 200 locations.” 

To meet the demand, parents in the group brought bags to USC Village during specified time slots, and students who needed the supplies picked them up. 

Last week, the group changed the way it distributes the bags in response to social distancing. All the donations are sent to a local USC family’s home, where students can visit to pick up the items. The bags can also be dropped off at students’ residences if necessary. 

“Having this local family, the Olmedos, volunteer to be available as a location for students to pick up — or, if you need to stay isolated or if you don’t have a car, for them to drop off — that’s really been a great solution,” Bennett said.

Victoria Mulligan, an alumna and parent of a USC student, was involved with the group before the coronavirus crisis, driving students to the airport during breaks and gathering supplies for students’ 21st birthday celebrations. Now, Mulligan opened her doors to collect toilet paper donations from members in the Facebook group.

“I have a couple of shipments that out-of-state parents have sent me of toilet paper,” Mulligan said. “They came in yesterday, so I’ll drop that off to the family … and they’ll bag everything up.”

The Local USC Moms and Dads On Call group has delivered almost 200 bags to USC students. 

Alexis Nixon, a graduate student studying music industry, is one of those students.

“I was able to just drive to the Village and meet them to pick [the bag] up — it was really awesome,” Nixon said. “They give you toilet paper, snacks and a few nonperishable food items … I guess the best thing is that it has nothing to do with the school itself. It’s just moms that live close wanting to help out.”

Nixon said that thanks to the initiative, she no longer needs to get up early in the morning to search grocery stores for basic necessities.

The initiative is one of several projects the Local USC Moms and Dads On Call group has piloted, including giving out snacks at the main campus walking entrance and bringing therapy dogs and ponies to campus. The group, founded in November, now has more than 3,200 members and aims to ensure that nonlocal students have what they need.

“It’s just a wonderful group of people — there are no egos involved,” Mulligan said. “It’s just parents trying to help kids who don’t have their parents close by. I think we all feel that if the situation were reversed, any parent would do the same for our kids.”