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Community comes together to 'adopt' Class of 2020

SIERRA VISTA — The Class of 2020’s final year of high school had been turned all because of the coronavirus, but now community members from across the county are helping seniors feel loved and supported through this tough time.

Stephanie Thomas, president and founder of the Sierra Vista Parents’ Coalition, started the Class of 2020 Cochise County Adopt a Senior Fan Group on Facebook to help community members show support for the graduates.

Thomas said the idea came from a national group to adopt high school seniors, which her nephew was in. She said that she thought it was a good idea and wanted to bring the idea not only to Sierra Vista, but Cochise County. As of Thursday morning, 254 fans (community members) and 287 students were signed up.

“We’re doing the matches ourselves on a first-come, first-serve type baises,” Thomas said.

Fans that sign up on the groups Facebook page are assigned a senior and are asked to purchase a gift for the person and have it delivered to them before May 15, if possible. Many of the group members are reaching out to parents of their student to get ideas for what to send as their surprise.

“It’s shown the community you can have an effect on these students,” Thomas said. “When kids have positive support from the community it bolsters their confidence.”

Natoyah Swift said although she didn’t know the student she was assigned, being in contact with his mother helped her figure out what to order and send to the senior assigned.

“It’s such a heart-warming feeling,” Swift said. “It really doesn’t matter what you get them. It’s about the act.”

In an effort to be as safe and cautious as possible, Thomas requires parents to sign up their child through a form in the Cochise County Adopt a Senior Fan Group Facebook page.

Thomas said those who sign up are vetted to make sure they are who they say they are and that it’s important for the parent to sign up their child because they want the parents to know and be involved in the process.

She added that if a senior signs themself up then the parent is contacted to make sure it is OK, since they will either have someone deliver something to their home or sent in the mail.

“I didn’t want any of the kids to be left out,” Thomas said. “A lot of the kids were surprised at first.”

Community members who are interested in signing up as a fan or parents who are interested in signing up their seniors have until Friday at noon. The sign up form can be found on the Cochise County Adopt a Senior Fan Group Facebook page.

The Sierra Vista Parents’ Coalition was founded in 2018 to give parents the opportunity to help fill the voids cuts in education left, Thomas said. She said the group’s mantra is “parents, community and school partnerships for better student outcomes.” For more information, visit fb.com/svparentscoalition.

Pandemic a boon for sale of liquor, both locally and nationally

REGION — It’s not just the toilet paper and Lysol that have become popular during COVID-19; alcohol sales also have skyrocketed as shuttered bars and restaurants around the country have sent patrons to supermarkets, liquor stores and online to buy their spirits.

Adult beverages are flying off the shelves across the country according to studies done by marketing firms and alcohol recovery organizations and interviews with liquor merchants. And Sierra Vista and Bisbee are no different.

Whether consumers are actually drinking more during these uncertain times, or simply stocking up on adult beverages, is not clear. But liquor and convenience store managers locally are not complaining, as they’ve watched their alcohol sales rise in the last month.

“The sales have definitely increased in my store,” said Letty Vargas, manager of a Good 2 Go convenience store in Bisbee. “I’d say we’ve increased by between 30 and 40 percent here.”

The same for Lee Soung, owner of SV Food Mart & Deli on North Seventh Street and Bryan Townsend, manager of Beverage Warehouse, both in in Sierra Vista. Soung said his liquor sales had risen, but only about 10 percent because he started closing earlier because of the coronavirus. Towensend said his sales had jumped by about 40 percent over the last month.

Charles Carvajal meanwhile, an employee at Bisbee Beverage and Sky Island Fuel on State Road 92, said his store is scrambling just to keep supplied.

“Every day here is like a Friday,” Carvajal said. “Ordering the products has been outrageous. We’re just trying to keep the shelves stocked.”

According to the Associated Press, U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages rose 55% in the week ending March 21. The information, provided by Nielsen, also showed that “spirits like tequila, gin and pre-mixed cocktails led the way, with sales jumping 75% compared to the same period last year.

Wine sales were up 66% while beer sales rose 42%. And online sales far outpaced in-store sales. The AP also stated that according to Nielsen, online alcohol sales were up 243%.

“In the past three or four weeks we’ve actually seen our baseline growth rate increase by about 400 to 450 percent,” Cory Rellas, CEO and co-founder of online beverage hub Drizly, told CNBC on March 31. “It’s an unprecedented shift from what we’ve seen.”

Mark Miller, president of the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance, which gauges supermarkets and convenience stores across the state, said, “grocery stores are doing very well,” in the sale of beer and liquor. He said convenience stores are selling liquor, as well, but are only doing “OK.”

“That’s because a lot of those stores also sell gas and people aren’t driving a lot these days because they’re staying home,” Miller said.

But people buying more liquor and staying at home because of the virus could also present its own set of problems.

A new study done by alcohol.org reports that about a third of people in the United States who are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic are also drinking on the job.

Sierra Vista Police Chief Adam Thrasher said his officers have seen a drop in DUIs, likely because bars are closed.

“It appears that, since the bars are closed and restaurants can only serve take-out, most people are consuming alcohol at home and staying at home,” Thrasher said in an April 24 email.

But the chief said he’s worried about daytime drinkers.

“We have been concerned with the possibility of increased daytime impaired driving due to this situation,” the chief said in his email. “While we have not seen a significant increase yet, we have received more citizen calls of possible impaired drivers during daytime hours over the last couple of days. Our concern is that individuals are consuming alcohol during the day and then going out to shop for supplies.”

Kenneth Skale, president of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, told Vice that, “the desire to get drunk during a deadly pandemic is fairly reasonable.”

“Think about what people are going through,” Skale told Vice. “There’s a ton of uncertainty, financial pressure — no one knows how this thing is going to turn out.”

Skale said people typically use substances in one of two ways: as a stand-in for relationships, or to numb themselves from the feelings they’re experiencing.

“Whenever we feel threatened, (most of us) have the urge to get closer to others,” Skale said. “Or, we have the urge to check out and not be with that feeling.”

University of Southern California professor John Klapp recently urged people to manage their substance use, reach out to online support groups and take positive actions like yoga, gardening or exercise.

“Just don’t drink like it’s going to be a never-ending weekend,” Klapp said in an article by the university.

Back in Sierra Vista, Chris Rector, manager of the Beverage House on East Fry Boulevard, said drinking alcohol is the only way some people can cope with what’s happening.

“That’s how people are getting through this,” said Rector, who also attested to the increase in sales at his business. “There’s not much else to do but drink at this time.”