Story by Sara Paul
Tony Cole Grigalunas may be one of the few third graders who truly loves to grocery shop. Once a week, the Sanfordville Elementary School (SES) student can be found diligently roaming local markets for the healthiest foods, the best buys, and the freshest bagels.
While not shopping for his own family, the eight-year-old is a proud volunteer with the Town of Warwick Friendly Visitor’s Program. Along with his mom, Michele, and his twin sister, Aubrey, Tony delivers delicacies and visits with a senior citizen couple every week – a community activity that seems to beautifully benefit both parties.
“It makes me happy because it makes them happy,” says Tony, who was born in Long Island, NY and lived in Clifton, NJ, before moving to Warwick last year.
The Warwick Friendly Visitor Program is committed to supporting residents by helping them remain in their homes. This is done by matching local volunteers with residents who need support, according to the organization.
Michele typically visits the family in the beginning of the week to chit-chat and get their list of approximately 25-30 necessary items. The working mom, now shopping for two families, takes Tony and Aubrey, along with Dad, Tony, to the store where the fun begins. Delegating who gets what, the children enjoy choosing the perfect items for their new found family.
When they arrive at the home, it’s hugs, kisses, and cookies. The groceries are the reason for the visit, but the endeavor has become so much more than just a delivery service.
“It’s not just about groceries. It’s really about seeing the kids and making that connection. You can try to teach compassion to your children, but when you put them in the situation and let them learn it, it’s a wonderful thing to watch,” notes Michele, explaining that with a couple of hours effort one day a week, their adopted seniors can enjoy not only groceries all week, but also the warm feelings of care, comfort, and companionship.
Tony’s father comments, “I am so proud of my son for his efforts with the Friendly Visitors Program. I have watched him grow emotionally, physically, and spiritually by helping a wonderful couple that needs a little extra help.
While they truly appreciate the grocery delivery every week, seeing Tony and Aubrey has become the highlight of their week. They absolutely adore them and have formed an everlasting bond that goes far beyond the limits of the program.”
With the whole family involved, it’s no wonder young Tony is so motivated to continue his efforts.
“We love to visit them. We are treated like grandchildren,” said Tony, who also uses his artistic talents to brighten his second family’s day.
Tony’s bright and creative origami and drawings adorn the walls of the elderly husband and wife’s Florida, NY home. Young Tony has loved art since pre-school, copying and tracing pics at first, and now creating his own masterpieces with black lead and colored pencils. The active youth also enjoys sports like soccer, baseball, and basketball.
New to Orange County, Tony is excited to be a student at SES, where he is a big fan of Principal Johnna Maraia, former teacher Miss Havell, and current teacher Miss Leigh.
“I like our Principal because she’s the best and she helps everyone do their best,” said Tony, adding that in his new home of Warwick, “…there’s a lot of land to play sports and I made a lot of new friends.”
On the off chance Tony is relaxing is home, he is cuddling with his rescue kittens, Jayde and Harley, or building enormous structures with his Legos.
The young hero offers these supportive words to his peers, “Even if something is not that easy at first, if you keep doing it, people can help you, and it becomes so much fun!”
For more information about the Town of Warwick’s Friendly Visitors Program, call 986-1124 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Warwick Valley Dispatch would like to feature young people of Warwick who are doing meaningful things. Whether in school, athletics, in the community or at home, we know there are many moving stories that need to be told. These “hero” stories can be from the incredible to the mundane, from the kid who saved his dog from drowning to the teen who takes care of a sibling with special needs. We ask that if you know of any young individuals who would be appropriate for these human interest pieces, that you contact Sara Paul at email@example.com or 718-702-3091.