Calif. firefighters deliver groceries to residents confined by COVID-19

Firefighters in Glendale, which has four cases, have stepped up to help residents who are isolating due to age or underlying health conditions

Andy Nguyen
Glendale News-Press, Calif.

GLENDALE, Calif. — With a list in hand Spencer Hammond was winding his way through Glendale’s Pacific Food Mart on Wednesday, quickly filling up a basket with grocery items such as eggs, milk and toilet paper.

But the firefighter-paramedic wasn’t buying the items for himself or his co-workers at the Glendale Fire Department — he was shopping for a resident.

Hammond was one of 40 firefighters at the department who have stepped up to help buy and deliver groceries as well as other essential items to city residents who are now housebound because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I think it’s just in our nature as a fire department, we’re always looking to help people and solve a problem,” he said.

Glendale Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas said the idea for this delivery service came together after Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday urged people over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions to stay at home and isolate themselves from others to avoid the risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. As of Wednesday night, four cases had been confirmed in Glendale.

Realizing a lot of the people who had been told to shelter in place aren’t especially technologically savvy, Lanzas said something needed to be done and approached the Glendale Firefighters Assn. about having staff members help the city’s “vulnerable population receive some of the essential services they need like food and medical prescriptions.”

“I put out a memo [Tuesday] night to the organization asking for volunteers who would be interested and, frankly, I’ve been overwhelmed by the response,” he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon the department had made four deliveries to families in the community and Lanzas said he expects more people will begin to call the department as time goes on.

Purchases are restricted to groceries, medications and other essential items, according to Lanzas. The department won’t go out and get alcohol or make some other unnecessary purchase.

Residents are presented with a receipt of the items to pay back the department for what they bought, but the delivery is free of charge.

The Glendale Fire Foundation is fronting the cost of purchasing the items, according to Lanzas.

“It’s an out-of-the-box idea but we feel that, with this population, we want to encourage them to stay at home so that we can flatten the curve of this disease and this is just helping to do our part,” he said.

Gevork Yagubyan, owner of Pacific Food Mart, said he was proud of the department helping out in this way and said it’s going to be a community effort to help stem the tide of the coronavirus.

He’s placed purchasing limits on certain items at his store like rice and toilet paper. Yagubyan also said he’s making sure his employees wear face masks and gloves while working and that the store is constantly cleaned.

He figured they sanitize surfaces customers are likely to touch in the store every 30 minutes.

“We’re just taking every precaution to keep things clean and safe for everybody,” he said.

After gathering all the items on the list Hammond headed to the El Miradero home of Jim Rohrig and his wife Nicole, who were grateful for the department’s help.

Rohrig, 64, suffers from respiratory issues while his 75-year-old wife suffered a stroke some time ago and he is her primary caregiver, so he can’t leave her for too long.

He did try to make a quick trip to a grocery store last week but found that all of the shelves had been cleaned out by people panic buying supplies. He heard about the department’s offer to deliver goods from his son.

The longtime Glendale resident said he’s sharing the groceries with a woman who’s been staying with them in their guest house as well as with an elderly neighbor.

“The neighborhood is just coming together and sharing, seeing who needs what,” Rohrig said. “It’s good to see.”


©2020 the Glendale News-Press (Glendale, Calif.)


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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