Medical student sidelined by the pandemic, helps launch nonprofit to help most vulnerable

Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 4:52 PM CDT
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We’ve seen the seemingly endless lines of people waiting to pick up food at local food pantries, but what about all those people who are too vulnerable to leave home amid the pandemic? How are they surviving?

Those are questions Ryan Jespersen and Sunny Massa both had. The duo founded ‘Support Your Neighbor COVID-19’, a newly formed non-profit.

6 News caught up with Jespersen at the St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry in downtown Omaha.

“As a medical student, I’m at that point in my training where I’m about to go out into the field and so that got put on hold so you know you’re ready to go and you want to help.

Originally they thought the non-profit would focus on helping vulnerable people learn how to order groceries and medications online.

“My thought was potential if we can keep people home, we can keep people out of the hospital and keep people safe,” said Jespersen. “So that could my part in having enough beds, having enough ventilators, all that kind of stuff.”

But the duo quickly realized in order to do that, they would have to change their game plan.

“We started to find that we had a big need of people who were at high risk but didn’t have the money to pay for those kinds of services,” said Jespersen.

So they reached out to local food pantries; St. Vincent De Paul taking them up.

“The idea of delivering groceries to people who just can’t get out or don’t have transportation out to Leavenworth,” said Gerry Brocky, the manager of the St. Vincent De Paul Food Pantry. “It’s been a real help to those clients.”

The deliveries making all the difference to people who are stuck in their homes, like Frederick Joseph. He told 6 News it’s a big challenge being alone.

“You don’t see nothing or hear nothing and you ain't got nothing to eat,” said Joseph, noting getting something to eat has been tough.

“If you call somebody it’s kind of hard because everyone’s afraid to come and interact with another person because of the COVID-19,” said Joseph. “For Ryan to bring something out and then call me and tell me to meet him at the door that was brilliant it really was.”

Jespersen and Massa believe their non-profit has the potential to far outlive the Coronavirus.

“We’re hoping to keep this service up for people,” said Jespersen. “Because some of these people are home not just because of COVID, but because they can’t go out and they don’t have the means.”

‘Support Your Neighbor’ offers plenty of resources online to help out people stuck in their homes. If you want to learn more about the non-profit call: 402-522-9420, or email