The organizers: David and Daniel Marrello
The project: Creating TechServeTO
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in March, David Marrello found himself housebound in Toronto with his parents and grandparents.
One day, Mr. Marrello watched his grandparents struggle with Skype and he offered to help. That led him to think about how other seniors were staying connected with family during the pandemic and how they were coping with loneliness. “I wanted to create something that would connect millennials with older adults so we could share our digital literacy,” said Mr. Marrello, 26, who is an associate director of growth equity at OMERS.
He teamed up with his brother, Daniel, 24, a postgraduate neuroscience student at McMaster University who has also been living at home in Toronto during the outbreak. They rounded up 155 volunteers and created TechServeTO, a free service that helps seniors with technology issues ranging from how to use Zoom and Facebook, to figuring out a good wifi package. They also provide tips on their website on topics such as how to optimize battery life and how to use Skype.
Seniors can call a toll-free number or fill out a short form on the group’s website. They only have to provide their first name and telephone number. All volunteers go through background checks and a training program.
The Marrellos have also reached out to several seniors organizations and faith communities, and they’ve begun offering workshops on a variety of topics including online privacy and security. They’ve also started raising money to expand the service and they hope to connect with corporate sponsors. So far they’ve helped more than 220 seniors, and their volunteers field up to 20 calls a day.
“My intention is to make this a long-term non-profit,” said Mr. Marrello, who also wants to create a network of seniors helping seniors.
Both brothers have been overwhelmed by the response to the service and they’ve been touched by some of the feedback, including one woman who said they had changed her life. “I find this so exciting,” Mr. Marrello said. “Knowing that what you do has direct impact on trying to help other people.”