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'Motherless' New Yorkers Are Getting Free Hugs from Grandmas Today

By Nicole Levy | May 2, 2016 8:28am | Updated on May 6, 2016 10:36am
 Upper West Side resident Arlene Sparaco, 63, is one of four grandmothers who will be making visits to Manhattan offices on Friday.
Upper West Side resident Arlene Sparaco, 63, is one of four grandmothers who will be making visits to Manhattan offices on Friday.
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Arlene Sparaco

You can order almost anything online — dinner, groceries, books, cars, puppies — to arrive at your door in New York City.

Now add grandmothers to that list.

Office workers in Manhattan are getting free visits and hugs from "Grannies-on-Demand" Friday as part of a Mother's Day publicity stunt by a Midtown-based tech company.

"We wanted to try to find people in New York who are separated from their mothers for Mother’s Day and ... give them a chance to have a replacement," said Brody Ehrlich, general manager of KeepTree, which provides users a private video-sharing and storage system. "[People] can use KeepTree," to record a video for delivery on Sunday, "and be like, 'Hey Ma, I love you, but I kind of replaced you with a new grandma."

Those who booked the promotional service had their choice of four grannies, each fitting a different stereotype: the "worrier," the "talker," the "forgetter" and the tech-savvy "Insta-grandmother."

KeepTree recruited its grannies via ads on Craigslist and vetted the candidates through interviews involving a trial hug. (They will be "compensated and thanked for their time," KeepTree CEO Jon Loew told us.)

The ideal embrace, Ehrlich said, should be neither too loose and short nor too tight and long.

Arlene Sparaco, 63 — who passed the test with what she described as her "open-armed" technique — said she saw KeepTree's ad while searching for gigs and volunteer opportunities on Craiglist and responded because she knew she wouldn't be spending Mother's Day with family.

With her daughter and two grandkids in Scotland, the Upper West Side resident chose to celebrate the holiday by mothering other New Yorkers.

She identifies with the tech-savvy granny archetype, she said: "Because my daughter is not here all the time, I need to reach her via either email, Facebook, text.

"But," she added, "there’s always a little bit of everything else rolled into one. I worry sometimes, sometimes I walk into the kitchen and I say, 'What am I here for?'”

If she forgets what she's doing today, she'll have a chaperone, Ehrlich, to remind her.