Anna Swenson

Anna Swenson, 16, of Waynesboro, stands Tuesday, in front of Kroger on Arch Avenue in Waynesboro while holding signup sheets she is distributing in the neighborohood. Anna is volunteering to deliver groceries to older adults who don’t feel safe leaving their homes because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

A Waynesboro High School junior is using her down time to help her elderly neighbors.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Swenson decided “pacing around” the house while practicing social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) was not doing herself, or anyone else, enough good.

After reading stories about how older adults — espeically those ages 60 and up — are more likely to get seriously sick from COVID-19 and are being cautioned to stay home, Swenson decided she wanted to help.

“My siblings live with my grandma, so I’ve met a lot of the elderly citizens,” Anna said. “I’ve met a lot of my grandma’s friends, and because of that, it was what came to mind.”

When she told her parents about her desire to help seniors, they assisted her in coming up with a plan to help deliver groceries to those who feel its unsafe to leave their homes to go shopping. To get the word out, Anna has been distributing sign-up forms.

“Right now, I’ve been working on offering my services and talking to people,” Anna said. “Leaving explanation of whatnot at their doorsteps, or under windshield wipers.”

Anna has also joined a group called Embrace Waynesboro, which strives to make the city a stronger community.

“They’re doing something related,” Anna said. “Soon, they’re going to be starting around the Kate Collins area, checking in to see who’s immunocompromised, elderly or otherwise at risk.”

Seniors are among the most at-risk population during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, officials said. Data from the 2018 Census estimate about 18% of Waynesboro’s population is over age 65, which is more than 4,000 individuals, said Luke Juday, director of planning for the city of Waynesboro.

Driven to help

Although Valley Program for Aging Services (VPAS) in Waynesboro had to close the doors to their senior center for at least the next two weeks, Kay Gentry, senior transportation coordinator, said VPAS is still offering transportation service for senior citizens — and the organization is in need of more volunteer drivers to serve some 201 riders.

“We take [seniors] to doctors; to the hospital, if they need to go for bloodwork or something like that; we take them to get groceries; to get their hair done; whatever it is they need,” Gentry said.

The organization has been taking precautions to help combat the spread of COVID-19. Any volunteers, staff and seniors who utilize the transportation services are asked whether they have recently been sick, or been in contact with someone exhibiting coronavirus symptoms. Everyone also has their temperature taken before entering the senior center. Drivers use bleach water and paper towels to wipe down vehicle handles and seats.

“We’re also asking our riders if they have been sick, or around someone who has been sick with the coronavirus symptoms, that they not ride,” Gentry said.

VPAS also has a meals on wheels program that is still in operation. This service is available to anyone who is age 60 or older and are homebound, Gentry said.

Those interested in learning more about meals on wheels, or transportation services through VPAS, schould call (540) 942-1838.

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