When he saw the "2020 Grad" signs on their lawns, US Postal Service worker Josh Crowell knew he wanted to lift the spirits of these graduating high school seniors who wouldn't be able to walk across the stage with their classmates because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He started leaving $5 Dunkin' Donuts gift cards in some of their mailboxes.
"$5 isn't much, but it's something so that the kids can get out of the house and go get a donut and an iced coffee," Crowell, 39, told CNN. He also leaves a hand-written note with the gift card, he said, congratulating the 2020 graduate, signing off the note as "your mailman Josh."
So far, Crowell, who delivers mail on routes near Concord, New Hampshire, has handed out at least 25 gift cards. But he keeps more cards in a lunchbox that he takes with him in case he sees more 2020 graduation signs.
New Hampshire announced school closures for the remainder of the school year in mid-April, but the state has not yet announced a decision regarding the plan for schools in the fall of 2021.
The state is under a modified stay-at-home order, called "Stay at Home 2.0" which is in effect until May 31.
"You are healthier at home. We want you to stay at home," New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said at a recent news conference.
On May 11, barbers and hair salons in New Hampshire were allowed to reopen, with certain social distancing restrictions. Retail shops also opened on May 11 to customers but are limited 50% occupancy. Restaurants can reopen on May 18, but only with outdoor seating options.
Crowell, however, has continued working throughout the pandemic since he is considered an "essential worker" as a postal service worker under Sununu's Emergency Order No. 17.
Crowell started working for the post office in November of 2019, and his routes usually run through towns including Concord, Bow and Loudon. He's gotten various notes from seniors responding to his gift cards. Many of the notes he received thank him for his kindness and for his continued work as an essential worker during the pandemic, Crowell said.
One of the thank you cards that Crowell received reads in part: "This year has not been easy for most, but I think being able to make someone's day is important. ... Thank you for being an essential worker, it means a lot."
Crowell has two daughters, so he knows how important it is for seniors to graduate on the stage alongside their classmates, he told CNN.
His younger daughter graduated high school in 2018. "She had some issues in school learning-wise so she struggled," Crowell said. "To know that she was able to graduate and walk across the stage and get her diploma was very meaningful for her and for me. To know that the students for 2020 are not going to be able to do that is hard and sad."
Crowell uses his personal money to buy the gift cards, he said.
"I'm not very well-off myself, but I look at it as, if I put a smile on somebody's face, then I will do it."