New Life Christian Center’s high school ministry group used to spend their meetings talking about their faith, catching each other up on school events and lending an ear to each other’s problems. Now, they’re looking out for those most-vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic by spending their days as volunteer shoppers.
The group, comprised of junior and senior students Brooke Rose, Emma Borrelli, Lilly Leonard, Grace Gonzales, Kayla Reese and Bella Pace, has taken it upon themselves to go grocery shopping for the elderly and others who may not be able to make it to the store due to the impact of COVID-19. The effort was inspired by the teens’ desire to turn something bad into something good, their advisor Brittony Rafatti said.
“Their prom was canceled, their sports were canceled and a lot of them were worried that they weren’t going to see their friends again since it was their last year,” Rafatti said. “But almost immediately they turned it around and decided to help the community somehow.
“We talked about how Jesus has no bounds and neither should we, so if someone needs the help we should do it whether it’s a senior, a single mom and anyone else who needs it.”
The girls have been hard at work shopping for seniors who have reached out, she added, spending time in the morning standing in line outside of stores in order to buy highly-coveted products. They’ve even gone to multiple stores in search of items in order to make sure each grocery list given to them is honored, while keeping safety in mind and sanitizing frequently along the way.
“At New Life Christian Center our motto is love people one step closer to Jesus, so if we can we want to do anything to help shine a light on what is possible and help eliminate fear in such a moment of panic and chaos,” Raffati said.
The group is currently shopping for a small group of seniors, but Raffati and the girls expect requests to come pouring in as supplies run low in homes and restrictions on movement become tighter.
The group communicates closely with those that they shop for, making adjustments if they would prefer not to pay in cash or if they want their groceries left at the door. On occasion, the girls will say a prayer with those who they deliver groceries to.
“It's an amazing experience. I'm glad I've had this opportunity to help those who are at risk,” Borrelli said. “It warms my heart seeing the joy on their faces from such a small deed. I wouldn't want to spend my time doing anything else."
Rafatti believes grocery shopping for the most vulnerable is an excellent way for the community to give back during this time, as other typical methods of service are at a standstill. She encourages anyone who could benefit from the service to reach out, whether it be mothers who can’t leave their kids at home alone, medical professionals who don’t have time to shop during the pandemic or, of course, elderly and immunocompromised individuals who don’t want to put themselves at risk.
Even though school is canceled and youth group meetings look different now, Leonard shared that it has opened up another door full of opportunity.
“Instead of getting down about all the things we are missing, we can choose to help and have fun and give others joy,” she said.
If you’re in need of someone to go grocery shopping for you, contact Raffati at 209-985-1614. The New Life Christian Center high school ministry group is available to shop from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday.