Sales are slow, so employees at Giles Automotive in Acadiana are using their time for social good, Ryan LeBlanc, company president, said Thursday.

LeBlanc said the company decided this week to commit its 180 employees at four Louisiana locations to serving the region’s elderly population, many of whom are housebound because of the coronavirus threat. Those 60 and older are most at risk from the virus, which is now in the pandemic stage. The effort is called the Essential Errand Running Service for Seniors, and it’s intended to help seniors in Lafayette and Opelousas areas.

“We are getting a ton of calls right now,” LeBlanc said of the volunteer effort. “It’s really picking up steam. We’ve been taking calls all day.”

Employees are volunteering to help with tasks like picking up prescriptions and groceries for older people. Giles operates three dealers on Johnston Street in Lafayette, including Nissan Lafayette, Subaru Lafayette and Volvo Lafayette as well as Nissan Opelousas. The company also has a dealership in Texas.

LeBlanc said the volunteer effort grew from a discussion he had with Stephen Benitez, personal development operational manager. He said the company didn’t want to lay off employees, despite slow sales caused by “sheltering in place” mandates from Gov. John Bel Edwards. The two decided to help seniors, in that they were most imperiled by the coronavirus among age groups.

“The ‘stay at home’ order came out Sunday, so we were scrambling,” LeBlanc said. By midweek, the company had some organization for their volunteer effort and he said the first grocery pickup was due Thursday.

LeBlanc said his employees are also volunteering to pick up vehicles from seniors’ homes and take them for service to any area dealership, not just their own.

Word got out through advertising and on social media, he said. By noon Thursday, the website had some 500 or 600 shares.

He said, for example, employees will pick up groceries at participating stores and take them to the senior citizen’s home, leaving them a safe distance from the door to meet social distancing recommendations.

“We just do not want senior citizens to go out; we want them to have least amount of contact possible,” he said. The coronavirus is usually spread from person to person, and health experts recommend that people stay at least six feet apart from other people in public.

Giles has a long record of community service in Acadiana. It has participated in such programs as Dreams Come True, which serves children with serious illnesses; it has purchased bulletproof vests for the Opelousas Police Department when budgets were low; and it helped generate money for St. Landry Parish churches that were burned by suspected arson.

The service will continue weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., through Easter – longer if needed. Call 337-210-9015 for help.

“They are the most vulnerable and many are in desperate need for a helping hand,” Bob Giles, chairman and CEO of Giles Automotive, said. “We are here to help.”

Email Ken Stickney at kstickney@theadvocate.com.