On the frontlines: Area student-athletes join the frontline fight against COVID-19

Area student-athletes join the frontline fight against COVID-19


The H-E-B in Pleasanton has been a beacon for Atascosa County. That beacon has been lit by its employees, some of whom were preparing for their final high school games on the field. Those student-athletes have now shifted to an essential role in the fight against the new coronavirus. SAM FOWLER | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

The H-E-B in Pleasanton has been a beacon for Atascosa County. That beacon has been lit by its employees, some of whom were preparing for their final high school games on the field. Those student-athletes have now shifted to an essential role in the fight against the new coronavirus. SAM FOWLER | PLEASANTON EXPRESS

A job for a high schooler means independence.

They can save up money to buy a sweet new ride, put money away for college or use the money to restock their wardrobe, among other things.

That has changed in the recent weeks with grocery stores turning into the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

A number of those high school students were preparing for their final games of their senior seasons. Now, they have shifted into frontline warriors at places like H-E-B during these historical times.

“It’s been wild. It’s kinda hard to process,” said Jourdanton Indian baseball senior and Lyon College signee Shafer Glasscock, who has worked at H-E-B since October 2018. “I remember when I turned 16, I was like, ‘Yeah, I would like a job. That would be great.’ I decided to go work at H-E-B. My granddad worked there. So, I wanted a job to make money, but now it’s essential to the people around here. It’s just hard to believe it’s turned into that.”

Shafer Glasscock

Shafer Glasscock

Glasscock’s granddad, James Newman, worked evenings at H-E-B after getting done with his fulltime teaching job in the day for 20 years.

Pleasanton H-E-B Top Store Leader Aubrey Smith took Newman’s eighth grade history class and said he “is the reason I work at H-E-B today.”

Lines to get goods such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and certain produce have popped up on occasion at stores as H-E-B has placed product limits on certain items so that each customer has the chance to get what they need as they prepare to isolate inside their own homes. That’s one reason the company has shifted its hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in order to allow their staff to adequately restock the shelves. It’s been one piece of the ever-changing landscape of this global pandemic, but H-E-B has yet to blink in the face of adversity once again.

“I think H-E-B has done a great job of having a calm atmosphere,” said Madelyn Bird, a senior forward for the Pleasanton women’s soccer team.

Madelyn Bird

Madelyn Bird

H-E-B has prided itself on preparedness in moments of crisis, much like during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 when the San Antonio-based company mobilized its Disaster Relief Unit to provide aid to Gulf Coast communities reeling from the devastating storm.

They’ve been preparing for this pandemic since the news of the new coronavirus started to emerge from China in early January. At the end of March, Justen Noakes, Director of Emergency Preparedness for H-E-B, told Texas Monthly the company has had a pandemic response plan since 2005.

The plan for this pandemic has included a $2-per-hour raise for all partners, social distancing guidelines, plexiglass sneeze guards to protect cashiers and baggers, complete sanitization of shopping carts, recommendations to wear masks and gloves, and enhanced protocols for partner sanitation, along with the implementation of product limits. In each store, there is a COVID Action Manager who makes sure the stores adhere to the protocols.

Delanee Olivarri

Delanee Olivarri

“The safety of my partners is my top priority right now above all else,” Smith said. “If I keep them safe, we can help keep the community safe.”

Pleasanton women’s soccer senior Delanee Olivarri echoed Smith’s sentiment.

“I think we’re taking our health more seriously and our guidelines more seriously,” Olivarri said. “This is a global pandemic, so we’re trying to keep our city safe.”

For Bird, Glasscock and Olivarri, the actions taken by H-E-B are extremely similar to gameplans they would have in place before taking the field for a game. Much like those gameplans, they’re ready to adapt to any changes that need to be made in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

“I know, when it comes to sports, you prepare for as much as you can, but you never know what’s going to happen,” Bird said. “It’s not like anybody predicted a pandemic like this, on the scale that it is. I think, just like in a game when you have to make last-minute decisions, HE B has done a good job of being on their toes. When you have a crisis like this, whether it’s on the field or in society, you have to have good communication. I feel H-E-B does a wonderful job communicating to the partners

Pleasanton H-E-B Top Store Leader Aubrey Olle Smith wears a protective mask while at work. H-E-B released a new recommendation that all employees wear one while at work. AUBREY SMITH | COURTESY PHOTO

Pleasanton H-E-B Top Store Leader Aubrey Olle Smith wears a protective mask while at work. H-E-B released a new recommendation that all employees wear one while at work. AUBREY SMITH | COURTESY PHOTO

… and also to the customers.”

“It just feels natural to have a plan of action,” said Glasscock, who has been around sports most of his life.

The steps taken by H-E-B in order to protect their partners has also been a relief to the parents of the student-athletes. While their kids are on the frontlines, their mothers and fathers know the company will do everything in their power to protect their partners.

“It’s very comforting,” said Janie Olivarri, Delanee’s mom. “The few times I’ve been in H-E-B since this all started, I was a little worried about going in because I kept seeing online how everything was crazy and chaotic. But H-E-B has done a great job of creating order and setting up procedures.

“It is kinda scary because I know [Delanee] has that possibility of being exposed even with all the precautions they’re taking. But I know H-E-B is doing a great job of putting steps in place to minimize that risk.”

When the UIL announced the suspension of the spring sports season until May, Bird, along with others in the same situation as her, used the opportunity to change their availability for work. For Bird, the change was made because she knew where she could help her community.

“I am not needed on the soccer field right now,” Bird said. “I am needed at places like my church, First Baptist, and at H-E-B. That’s where our community needs the most hands right now.”

The soon-to-be graduates will certainly come out of these times with one thing. All three student athletes interviewed mentioned a renewed pride of the community in Atascosa County, something they hope will carry on long after the virus is contained.

“[Work] used to be this thing I did once or twice a week,” Delanee Olivarri said. “But, now that we have this responsibility of taking care of our community, it’s given me a new sense of pride and purpose to who I am and what I can do for my community.”

“Everyone has come together during this hard time,” Glasscock said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *