Prompted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain demographics, a group of Conard students have launched an initiative to assist elderly West Hartford residents with a variety of tasks including grocery shopping.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford Public Schools buildings have been closed for the past five weeks, in order to stop the spread of COVID-19, and while the coronavirus can infect people of all age groups, seniors, especially those over age 80, have the greatest risk of being hospitalized or succumbing to the disease.
A group of West Hartford teens are stepping in to allow those senior to remain safely in their homes.
Conard High School junior Jett Rosner said he lives near The Reservoir, and he’s accustomed to seeing the elderly residents from that community walking about his neighborhood or at the nearby Stop & Shop on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford.
Over the past few weeks, those same seniors haven’t ventured into many public spaces, he said, other than when they absolutely need to do critical errands like getting groceries or prescriptions.
“When the pandemic hit, I was shopping with my father, and I thought why are they going into public spaces,” Jett said. “We need to do something about this.”
Jett and two of his friends, Purit Butsapak and Ben Covici, also Conard juniors, were inspired and motivated to help.
“A couple of weeks ago I was at Stop & Shop and saw three elderly couples walking around without masks or gloves. It was such a danger, and I felt helpless,” Purit said.
That’s what led to the creation of WeHa At Your Service, an initiative the three recently formed to offer the services of healthy and responsible high school students to perform critical tasks for elderly residents.
“Our elder community must receive the necessities that allow them to continue their daily lives. Many members of the elderly community have found themselves stuck in a double-bind: either they are unable to purchase necessities like groceries, or they risk catching the virus when they leave their homes,” they wrote in an email introducing WeHa At Your Service. “As a West Hartford community, we are all deeply committed to ensuring the safety of the populations most vulnerable to the coronavirus epidemic. As high school students, we are troubled by the severity of the threat posed to elderly populations in our community.”
WeHa At Your Service is not looking to make a profit, but only to recoup the cost of gloves, masks, and gasoline used by the students who are otherwise volunteering their time. They will accept tips.
“Our goal is not to make any money on this,” Purit said.
“We want to give back to the community, to our elders,” Jett said. “It’s good for people our age to feel like they are giving back.”
In addition to the three who started WeHa At Your Service, they have recruited some of their friends, Ben added.
Due to the same coronavirus that has led to the need for the business to exist, the founders have been struggling a bit to get word out to seniors about the initiative. “We can’t go door to door,” Jett said.
They have created flyers, and are hoping that as more use the service, word will spread. Over the weekend they completed their first few deliveries.
WeHa At Your Service is committed to following all health and safety guidelines established by the local health district as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and will wear gloves and masks, and maintain proper physical distance from others to the extent possible.
Unless a service requires more than one person, it will be performed independently by a WeHa At Your Service volunteer.
Deliveries and tasks will be performed on a no-contact basis. Service hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from noon-6 p.m., and Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
While they are working on a method of accepting online payments, currently WeHa At Your Service requires cash prepayment and will return any change along with a receipt upon delivery.
In addition to picking up groceries or prescriptions, WeHa At Your Service will be available to help with other tasks required outside of the home, such as dropping off or retrieving packages, bringing trash and recycling bins back and forth, getting propane tanks filled, and doing yard work.
- Purit Butsapak: 860-502-8964
- Jett Rosner: 860-944-5320
- Benjamin Covici: 860-709-5989
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