Program Connects Pitt Community for Shopping, Delivery Help

Ben Rottman in a blue collared shirt

Ben Rottman, associate professor in the Department of Psychology, wanted to make it easier for people to find the help they needed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. His solution? The Pitt Shopping Helper program.

“There are so many people in the Pitt community who don't own a car, don't have extra money for delivery services or recently moved to Pittsburgh and don't have extensive social support,” said Rottman.

Working with Anthony Peck, a University technical consultant in Pitt IT, Rottman built the map-based tool that members of the psychology department and Learning Research and Development Center could use to find people who lived nearby and needed help with shopping and other necessities.

It came to the attention of Frits Pil, provost fellow for faculty and director of instructional innovation and faculty development at Pitt Business. Pil connected Rottman with the Pitt Pandemic Service Initiative, hosted by the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, which enabled the tool to become a cross-University effort.

“We are now looking for ways to reach the full Pitt community. What’s super exciting about this is that it’s Pitt colleagues helping each other,” said Pil. “The goal is for this to present minimal incremental risk to volunteers … We hope that they can provide the assistance when they would be going out for themselves any way.”

Currently, the Pitt Shopping Helper tool is part of the My Pitt platform, accessible to anyone with a pitt.edu email address.

“The current focus is shopping, but it can provide a framework and volunteer base to build off if the needs get more complex,” said Pil, who encouraged people to sign up as helpers and to request help if they need it.

“We would like for everyone in the Pitt community who needs help to ask for it. There is no stigma to requesting assistance at this time. We stay through this as a community. We support each other.”