MOUNT VERNON — A group of teens roamed the aisles Thursday of their local Safeway, looking for items such as bananas, honey roasted peanuts and the now-elusive toilet paper.
The teens, members of the Salem Lutheran Church youth group, were shopping for some at-risk neighbors who live in an apartment complex near the church.
With the spread of the novel coronavirus and associated COVID-19 disease, 74 people in the state have died, many of them over 60 or with underlying health conditions.
In Skagit County, the number of positive coronavirus cases was at 18 as of Thursday afternoon, with three either hospitalized or having been hospitalized.
“There’s not a person in this building who wouldn’t be on that vulnerable list,” said Roberta Windham, a resident of the apartment complex.
While not immune to the disease, youth appear to be less affected by it. And with a six-week closure of schools, Mount Vernon High School junior Chase Rochelle took it upon himself to organize a group of friends to help their community.
“I felt like this is the right thing to do,” Rochelle said.
On Wednesday, Rochelle went to the apartment complex to offer his services.
“They’re potentially saving a life,” said Rochelle’s mother, Karen Deck.
On Thursday morning, two residents of the complex had given Rochelle detailed grocery lists and envelopes with money.
Then the teens went shopping.
“I thought it would be a fun way to help out the elderly,” said Beau Omdal, an Anacortes High School senior.
Aisle by aisle — and sometimes back again — Rochelle’s brother Chatham Rochelle, 19, and Omdal searched for the items on Kay Lesko’s list: Grapes, check. Lemons, check. Ice cream, check.
They even went to a second store to find toilet paper.
“It’s a good way to give back,” said Chatham Rochelle.
While only two people gave the teens grocery lists for Thursday’s shopping trip, Chase Rochelle said he considered the day a success. The teens had learned how to execute their plan and what to do better.
Next time, he said, he hopes more of the residents will take advantage.
As he prepared to drop Lesko’s groceries at her door, Chase Rochelle made sure to apply hand sanitizer first. In an effort to practice social distancing only two of the teens delivered the groceries to Lesko, who was happy to see them.
“I’m scared to death of the virus,” she said. “So I think (what they’re doing) is fantastic.”
Among closures or event cancellations Thursday:
n The Anacortes Police Department was closed to the public until further notice.
n Concrete Town Hall will be closed to the public starting Monday.
n The state Department of Natural Resources will close its offices to the public beginning Friday. The Northwest region office is at 919 N. Township St., Sedro-Woolley.
n The Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group has closed its office to the public.
— State fish hatcheries and regional offices of the state Department of Fish & Wildlife have closed to the public.