SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Two years ago, two Stanford business graduates put their heads together to find a way to serve lonely senior citizens. 

Madeline Dangerfield-Cha and Joy Zhang say they started their app Mon Ami to bring comfort and companionship to older adults.

“The thing we heard over and over again was this need for social engagement, to have the presence of someone who is young and energetic and active, because it really keeps the mind active,” said Zhang.

They combined Zhang’s background in healthcare and hospice with Dangerfield-Cha’s expertise in education and digital marketing to create the platform Mon Ami, which matches senior citizens with volunteers. Mon Ami in French means “my friend.”

NOMINATE A JEFFERSON AWARD HERO

When they started, Zhang played Scrabble with a client and Dangerfield-Cha began helping a retired professor with Parkinson’s write his memoir.

Other volunteers do a variety of services, from art projects and walks to prescription pick up.

“It’s what gets me up everyday, and the fact that I get to do it with such amazing people is bonkers,” said Dangerfiefld-Cha. “Every photo, every story we’d get back from those visits propelled us even further.”

Volunteer Mandy Chan delivers weekly groceries to Michele Praeger, who’s recovering from back surgery.

Chan used the Mon Ami app to go through a background check, peruse nearby service opportunities, and connect with Praeger.

“I bring her whatever she wants, she typically texts me what she needs for the week,” said Chan.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Praeger said.

And though they are staying distant during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are connecting through conversation.

“You become friends. You begin a relationship,” Chan said.

“When we can visit, I would like to have Mandy over for tea,” smiled Praeger.

Over the years, Mon Ami expanded its reach during the pandemic to more than 3,500 volunteers across 50 states.

LEARN MORE: Jefferson Awards for Public Service

The for-profit venture licenses its technology to San Francisco and Los Angeles so their city governments can link volunteers with food pantries and other service providers like Bananas.

It used Mon Ami to connect to more than 100 families and child care providers who needed deliveries of diapers, wipes, and PPE in North Alameda County.

“It’s been an amazing partnership. We’re so grateful,” Bananas’ Executive Director Kym Johnson said.

Maria Hassel, Bananas’ Director of Community Services, added, “I don’t think we’d be able to reach the amount of families that we have reached without them.”

So for creating Mon Ami to match volunteers to those in need, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Joy Zhang and Madeline Dangerfield-Cha.

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