Spring 2021

‘They saved me’

Student volunteers step up to help frontline caregivers with child care, pet care, errands, and more

Shannon Marchiando stared at the email in front of her. “Too good to be true,” she thought, and deleted it.

A few days later, a coworker forwarded her the same email message. It promoted MN CovidSitters, a group of University of Minnesota medical and health sciences students who were offering—free of charge—to help frontline health care workers with tasks like childcare, pet care, grocery shopping, and other errands during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marchiando is a critical care nurse at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. She’s also a nursing graduate student and single mom to her 8-year-old son, Marcos.

Because of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Marchiando’s 82-year-old mother could no longer care for Marcos while Marchiando worked. 

Marcos Marchiando and his CovidSitter, Carleigh Rand

As the pandemic surged, she was running out of affordable childcare options. So she gave the CovidSitters a call.

Marcos was paired with a CovidSitters volunteer, who looked after him while Marchiando worked. The two did schoolwork, went to the park, and rode bikes. 

For Marcos, his CovidSitter became a new best bud; for Marchiando, CovidSitters became a lifeline in the midst of overwhelming circumstances.

“They created this really amazing, generous thing,” she says. “That speaks to the soul of a health care provider. It’s that desire to help and participate in the community and put something better out there.”

The CovidSitters’ efforts have been bolstered by support from the U of M Caregiver Emergency Fund. These gifts have helped the group provide gift cards to student volunteers as a way to let them know “how valued they are by the community,” says Sara Lederman, a third-year medical student and CovidSitters cofounder.

Marchiando understands their value firsthand.

“They saved me,” she says.

Shannon Marchiando shares how MN CovidSitters provided much-needed child care for her son, Marcos, during the COVID-19 pandemic.