Masks, ventilators, food for front line workers. Local companies are stepping up and changing production to provide for their community in this time of hardship. Big manufacturers have changed production from liquor to hand sanitizer or sporting equipment to masks. There are also local restaurants that have donated lunches to nurses and doctors who are spending countless hours caring for COVID-19 patients. Since the government-mandated stay at home order has taken effect, local students have found themselves with some unusual free time to also give back to their community.
With all of the grocery stores taking a hard hit during this pandemic, a couple of New Ulm High School students have stepped up to make sure the shelves are full of food and that there’s toilet paper for the customers. Senior Anthony Gaylord explains that associates who have had positions throughout different departments of the store have been reassigned to the grocery section. “Grocery is our main priority,” he said, “but the pharmacy and beauty section are also really important.” Gaylord has admitted that Walmart is starting to limit the amount of some items that customers can buy. For instance, essentials like toilet paper and jugs of water are “one to a person.”
Both Gaylord and Caleb Norcut, a senior at NUHS as well as an associate at Walmart, are also putting themselves at higher risk for the virus by being in close proximity to so many people throughout a day. To combat this they have “started to wear gloves” and the store “only has the grocery side doors unlocked so they can keep a count of how many people are in the store as they have started to limit the number of people.”
Over the past couple of weeks, unemployment has reached a record-breaking high as all of the “non-essential” workers are being laid off or losing their jobs completely. However, parents who are essential workers still need childcare while students are doing school work from home, and daycares have been shut down. Senior Paige Hoffman, a highschool aged staff member at Kids Connection, explains what she, along with the Kids Connection staff, are doing to help the community. “We are only open to essential workers and follow social distancing,” she said. Along with their new requirements for allowing care come new hours for workers. “I went from about 12 hours a week to around three to five,” Hoffmann said, adding that they really only take two to five kids a day with the new requirements.
While these students have found ways to help their community, they also have another shared goal: graduating high school. To do this they still need to focus on their distance learning school work before they can go to their job. “I still do my school during school hours and work at 3 to 5 in the afternoon, just fewer days than I would normally,” Hoffmann said. Gaylord and Norcut agree that their school should not conflict too much with their jobs, as they had been working during the school year previously.
Whether it’s making masks, doing childcare, stocking shelves, or just staying home, people of any age can play a role in helping the community as we are all in this together.