Marquita Pring Lends a Helping Hand

The SI Swimsuit rookie pitches in by making deliveries to those in need.

SI Swimsuit is all about giving our models a voice to speak about causes that are important to them and a place to share their accomplishments, goals and dreams. We offered our 2020 models an opportunity to contribute a personal essay to champion a charity they support, a venture they are passionate about or anything their heart desires. Marquita Pring has chosen to spotlight Invisible Hands and Vision Urbana which have been assisting people who are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic:

"At the peak of the quarantine, when most of NYC was shut down and we were asked to stay in our homes, I quickly realized how fortunate I was to be healthy and have a comfortable home to keep me safe. I couldn’t help but think of all of the people who were struggling to make ends meet or were at high risk if they happened to get sick. I started to look for volunteer opportunities and was reminded of Invisible Hands, a volunteer channel my friend Maggie Connelly had told me about.

Maggie who, while walking her dog one day, realized how many people were stuck at home, either coping with illness or unable to get out and run basic errands. She posted a flyer informing people in her neighborhood that she could do grocery or pharmacy runs that they could not do themselves. Word quickly spread of her kind offer and soon it went viral. Maggie then reached out to Liam Elkind and Simone Policano, who had started a similar initiative of their own. From there the nonprofit Invisible Hands was launched in NYC this past spring with Liam and Simone the helm. From their grassroots efforts they turned their good intentions into a well-organized, full-blown nonprofit.

Invisible Hands amassed over 10,000 volunteers during the height of the pandemic. Together, with partnerships with food pantries and mutual aid societies, volunteers have completed thousands of individual deliveries and nearly 900 food pantry deliveries.

I signed up to work with Invisible Hands back in May. They’ve made it very easy to volunteer. Invisible Hands posts on their channel that they need volunteers to get specific items delivered to a provided address. One night I said I was available and they sent me further details. After completing that first job I realized how good it felt to give my time, especially after spending so much time in isolation at home. I wanted to do more! I kept checking their channel but realized how busy they were getting. There were so many volunteers it was hard to get jobs, which was a great problem to have.

One day I noticed another volunteer posted that an organization called Vision Urbana needed help with a big delivery happening the next day. I responded and told them I’d be there that morning. That was three months ago and I have been volunteering, delivering meals and groceries once a week ever since. I was really surprised one afternoon to see my friend Andrew Yee posting on his Instagram that he was also a Vision Urbana volunteer. I hit him up and now we volunteer together each week. Volunteering with a friend makes the work so much more fun!

I look forward to seeing him every week and seeing what sort of adventure finds us. You can meet some real characters while making deliveries to people’s front doors. Even connecting with other volunteers can be eye-opening. One day we were paired with local community outreach officers. This was in the midst of the protests and riots so I was a little nervous to be around any sort of officer, even those whose main focus is to help the community, but we were able to connect, work together and even have fun while doing our work. I’m grateful for that opportunity.

While we are all starting to find a new normal and even though we have less free time there is still a great need to help those who are shut in or unable to shop or provide for themselves. There are currently 1,000 Invisible Hands volunteers continuing deliveries to those most affected by the pandemic, tackling food inaccessibility and insecurity. It really goes to show how much a little effort and good intentions can make such a powerful impact. I am so glad to have found Invisible Hands and Vision Urbana and to be able to help neighbors in need. If you’re interested in volunteering with Invisible Hands or Vision Urbana, check out their websites."

Alyssa Conroy