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Delivery drivers make themselves available for holiday shopping

Runner City started out the pandemic with unemployed or furloughed workers delivering food. Now, the delivery people are helping buy and bring gifts to your door.

AUSTIN, Texas — Across Texas, coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise. The Texas Medical Association says shopping for the holidays is almost as risky as Thanksgiving dinner with family when it comes to spreading COVID-19.

In light of that, delivery drivers in Runner City have been helping pick up and drop off gifts.

"Kind of like the Black Santa, Brown Santa, where we're doing the deliveries because it's COVID and people are like, 'I can't get out, I don't want to,'" Penii Galindo-Cook, a driver and admin for the crowd-sourced Facebook Group, said.

Shoppers like Tyler Mason and Sarah Preston have used the group to already deliver items this season. Mason typically goes to stores himself, but lives in San Marcos and couldn't find a good store for Apple products.

"I like to go to the store if possible, so a lot of what I'm doing is like ordering online for pickup," Mason said. "I still get it in my hands rather than having to wait for it to come in the mail. ... I really enjoy [Runner City] because, it just makes sense to me to, like, help the people that are unemployed due to what's going on because, like, I was affected by COVID too."

Preston started her holiday shopping this week using Runner City.

"I actually just got a couple of things for my kid today, because when I was looking online at the stuff, they had a couple of deals," Preston said. "It's really helped cut back as far as exposure to other people."

Preston referenced her elderly parents and her son as the primary reasons for not going to stores often and preferring to use Runner City.

Andy Kaminski founded the group when Austin was shut down because of coronavirus. Originally, the group focused on helping furloughed and unemployed workers make a little money delivering food.

"It used to be like 80% food deliveries and like 20% odd jobs," Kaminski said. "Now, it's about 50/50. Maybe sometimes we're doing a little bit more odd jobs, especially holiday times."

Within the last week, most of the posts in the group have been holiday-related: delivering Christmas trees, putting up holiday decorations, delivering gifts. With more than 13,000 members, Kaminski is surprised and happy with the group's growth and direction.

"It kind of just morphed and created itself," Kaminski said. "All the great people that are part of the page, all the members, it's really all them. You know, they come up with some errand or job that they needed, and they just kind of blew up from there."

Galindo-Cook has developed relationships with some people on the page and has become almost an exclusive delivery person for, who she calls, her "regulars."

"I had like the pre-Black Friday because I was gone on Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. and I did not get back until 8 p.m. in my home from doing runs: everywhere from Costco to Central Market to going downtown to pick up food to, you know, picking up some velvet curtains because this lady wanted to surprise her husband and make like a speakeasy instead of a man cave."

The group is free to join, has contact-less delivery, and has strict rules to make sure drivers get paid properly. Instead of charging fees like many delivery apps, Runner City recommends tips to drivers while customers pay what they owe to the restaurant or store they're ordering from.

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