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Stony Brook Senior Uses Tech Skills To Purchase, Program Tablets For Families To Speak To Loved Ones With COVID-19

PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A graduating college senior is turning his loss into an opportunity to help others.

James Rizzardi's grandmother, Yolanda, died in hospice shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

"I was blessed with the opportunity to be there for her final moments several months ago," Rizzardi told CBS2's Jennifer McLogan on Tuesday.

The physics major at Stony Brook University kept in contact with the hospice staff and learned that COVID-19 restrictions sadly meant an abrupt end to in-person visitation at the end of life.

"Going weeks and weeks without hearing them, knowing they're locked. They're in quarantine," Rizzardi said.

So he decided to use his skills to help total strangers.

"I used to repair phones and I have a lot of experience in developing software for Android," Rizzardi said.


He shared his ideas with fellow students, family, and friends to purchase and program tablets that terminal patients can use to talk with loved ones via Zoom, FaceTime, and Snapchat.

"Hear their voice and they can hear yours. You can ell them how much you love them," Rizzardi said. "I cannot put words to being able to do something like that for someone."

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He presented nearly three dozen tablets to Good Shepherd Hospice in Port Jefferson.

"We don't want our family members to have any regrets in not being able to say goodbye when someone is seriously ill and terminally ill, so James' donation is going to help us to be able to continue our mission," said Good Shepherd president Kim Kranz.

"We've raised over $7,000 so far," Rizzardi added.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

He next will deliver 30 tablets to a nursing home in Centereach. His small mission has gained the admiration of the spiritual community.

"Before COVID I would have a family gathered around a bedside. Now, with something like this they can still participate in the prayer service," hospice chaplain Rev. Dawn Turpin said.

Rizzardi said he is the one filled with emotion.

"Humbled. Humbled ... I can't put words to it," he said.

With the memory of the grandmother he loved and misses, a graduating senior using this COVID break from campus to make a real difference.

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