News

Man goes extra mile to help vulnerable residents during pandemic, sparking growing corps of volunteers

'This is a war, and we all have to do whatever we can,' says Howard Kushlan

Howard Kushlan knows the best place to get eggs, where to find Clorox wipes, who's in need of distilled water for their CPAP machine, which neighbor has a prescription waiting to be picked up, and just about every shopping policy at every food store in Palo Alto.

Over the past month, the Palo Alto resident has spent his days — and some evenings — helping neighbors during the pandemic as part of a growing corps of volunteer residents that he unintentionally inspired to take action after sending a call out to those in need on social media.

"I didn't overthink it. I just put a post up saying, 'I'm happy to do whatever you need; if you need groceries, if you need shopping, if you need supplies, whatever,'" Kushlan told the Weekly over the phone last week. "And then it just sort of caught on. Other people ran with it, and it's taken on a life of its own."

Kushlan said his post had about 350 likes and 90 comments last week and had inspired more than 200 residents from well beyond his downtown neighborhood to join in and volunteer to help vulnerable residents throughout the community.

He has set up a Google Doc where people can add new requests for assistance or remove requests that have been fulfilled.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

"I don't micromanage it," he said. "It's awesome. People just go in and get things done. ... We don't have time to waste."

Volunteers are doing everything from translating for non-English speaking seniors at Lytton Gardens to taking time to chat on the phone with someone who just needs to talk to coordinating the distribution of hand sanitizers to nurses.

"It runs the whole gamut," said Kushlan, who was preparing to help someone move the next day after shopping for groceries for a neighbor and taking a dog for a walk.

No one is more surprised by how one post on the social-media site Nextdoor could have snowballed into such an enormous effort than Kushlan himself.

"What's incredible is it's metastasizing in the best kind of way," he said. "I'm stunned by the volume of people who genuinely want to help. It's been awe-inspiring."

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Kushlan said since the stay-at-home order, he's been focused on answering every call and doing every possible thing he can when somebody makes a request.

"There's a lot of uncertainty, and so many people are out there that are scared and want help," said Kushlan, who grew up in Palo Alto and now runs Crux, a marketing and political consulting firm.

"My view is this is a war, and we all have to do what we can. With a crisis like this, I think there's no time to wait for instructions. You've got to step up with whatever your skill set is," he said.

He said he's learned a lot through this unexpected period of volunteering. One woman from a senior living center called him really scared because she needed distilled water for her CPAP machine.

"I didn't even know those machines needed distilled water," he said. The water was tough to find, but he finally tracked some down.

"I just go to different stores like Piazza's or Safeway or Ace Hardware that I know, looking for supplies," said Kushlan, who does one shopping trip at a time. "Everyone at the stores knows me now."

Kushlan said that, two weeks ago, going shopping was like an "apocalyptic" experience. Now, he says about waiting in line,"once you're inside, it's like a very lovely calm."

Kushlan, who was just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center in New York City during 9/11, said this coronavirus outbreak is like nothing he's experienced.

"I was out taking a walk with my mom this morning, and it's like there's this enemy out there that we can't see. It's so bizarre. It's unfathomable," he said.

Kushlan said one silver lining from this experience is that he's gotten to know his neighbors.

"I have to tell you, I'm someone who doesn't necessarily get involved with the neighborhood. I was one of those people who felt, 'It's nice here, but I don't know my neighbors,'" he said. "In times like these, you have to step outside your comfort zone, and that's when people's best is brought out."

-----

This profile originally appeared in the April 3 print edition of the Weekly and is part of our ongoing series, "Ordinary people, extraordinary times," capturing the stories of locals during the coronavirus crisis. Read more of their stories through the links below:

Week 6:

With volunteer drivers staying home, Health Trust CEO jumps behind the wheel to deliver meals to those in need

Week 5:

Pet transport company offers rare, no-contact service to Midpeninsula during a crucial time

Week 4:

Pushing through exhaustion, fear: Stanford Hospital researcher faces new reality caused by health crisis

Week 3:

Not even catching polio in the 1940s compares to COVID-19 pandemic, local woman says

Week 2:

Despite financial strain, restaurant owner insists on providing free meals in the community that helped him succeed

Week 1:

Back from Wuhan, Palo Alto woman faces quarantine — again

Working without protective gear, health care worker on edge over mysterious coronavirus

Stanford's swift actions against COVID-19 leave some students at a crossroads

Coronavirus brings down curtain on debut for Pear Theatre's new artistic director

Making deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic has incentives — and a dark side

To view the series on one page, visit PaloAltoOnline.Atavist.com.

-----

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Man goes extra mile to help vulnerable residents during pandemic, sparking growing corps of volunteers

'This is a war, and we all have to do whatever we can,' says Howard Kushlan

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Apr 22, 2020, 4:31 pm

Howard Kushlan knows the best place to get eggs, where to find Clorox wipes, who's in need of distilled water for their CPAP machine, which neighbor has a prescription waiting to be picked up, and just about every shopping policy at every food store in Palo Alto.

Over the past month, the Palo Alto resident has spent his days — and some evenings — helping neighbors during the pandemic as part of a growing corps of volunteer residents that he unintentionally inspired to take action after sending a call out to those in need on social media.

"I didn't overthink it. I just put a post up saying, 'I'm happy to do whatever you need; if you need groceries, if you need shopping, if you need supplies, whatever,'" Kushlan told the Weekly over the phone last week. "And then it just sort of caught on. Other people ran with it, and it's taken on a life of its own."

Kushlan said his post had about 350 likes and 90 comments last week and had inspired more than 200 residents from well beyond his downtown neighborhood to join in and volunteer to help vulnerable residents throughout the community.

He has set up a Google Doc where people can add new requests for assistance or remove requests that have been fulfilled.

"I don't micromanage it," he said. "It's awesome. People just go in and get things done. ... We don't have time to waste."

Volunteers are doing everything from translating for non-English speaking seniors at Lytton Gardens to taking time to chat on the phone with someone who just needs to talk to coordinating the distribution of hand sanitizers to nurses.

"It runs the whole gamut," said Kushlan, who was preparing to help someone move the next day after shopping for groceries for a neighbor and taking a dog for a walk.

No one is more surprised by how one post on the social-media site Nextdoor could have snowballed into such an enormous effort than Kushlan himself.

"What's incredible is it's metastasizing in the best kind of way," he said. "I'm stunned by the volume of people who genuinely want to help. It's been awe-inspiring."

Kushlan said since the stay-at-home order, he's been focused on answering every call and doing every possible thing he can when somebody makes a request.

"There's a lot of uncertainty, and so many people are out there that are scared and want help," said Kushlan, who grew up in Palo Alto and now runs Crux, a marketing and political consulting firm.

"My view is this is a war, and we all have to do what we can. With a crisis like this, I think there's no time to wait for instructions. You've got to step up with whatever your skill set is," he said.

He said he's learned a lot through this unexpected period of volunteering. One woman from a senior living center called him really scared because she needed distilled water for her CPAP machine.

"I didn't even know those machines needed distilled water," he said. The water was tough to find, but he finally tracked some down.

"I just go to different stores like Piazza's or Safeway or Ace Hardware that I know, looking for supplies," said Kushlan, who does one shopping trip at a time. "Everyone at the stores knows me now."

Kushlan said that, two weeks ago, going shopping was like an "apocalyptic" experience. Now, he says about waiting in line,"once you're inside, it's like a very lovely calm."

Kushlan, who was just a few blocks away from the World Trade Center in New York City during 9/11, said this coronavirus outbreak is like nothing he's experienced.

"I was out taking a walk with my mom this morning, and it's like there's this enemy out there that we can't see. It's so bizarre. It's unfathomable," he said.

Kushlan said one silver lining from this experience is that he's gotten to know his neighbors.

"I have to tell you, I'm someone who doesn't necessarily get involved with the neighborhood. I was one of those people who felt, 'It's nice here, but I don't know my neighbors,'" he said. "In times like these, you have to step outside your comfort zone, and that's when people's best is brought out."

-----

This profile originally appeared in the April 3 print edition of the Weekly and is part of our ongoing series, "Ordinary people, extraordinary times," capturing the stories of locals during the coronavirus crisis. Read more of their stories through the links below:

Week 6:

With volunteer drivers staying home, Health Trust CEO jumps behind the wheel to deliver meals to those in need

Week 5:

Pet transport company offers rare, no-contact service to Midpeninsula during a crucial time

Week 4:

Pushing through exhaustion, fear: Stanford Hospital researcher faces new reality caused by health crisis

Week 3:

Not even catching polio in the 1940s compares to COVID-19 pandemic, local woman says

Week 2:

Despite financial strain, restaurant owner insists on providing free meals in the community that helped him succeed

Week 1:

Back from Wuhan, Palo Alto woman faces quarantine — again

Working without protective gear, health care worker on edge over mysterious coronavirus

Stanford's swift actions against COVID-19 leave some students at a crossroads

Coronavirus brings down curtain on debut for Pear Theatre's new artistic director

Making deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic has incentives — and a dark side

To view the series on one page, visit PaloAltoOnline.Atavist.com.

-----

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

There are no comments yet. Please share yours below.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Not sure?
Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.