No stranger to helping other through crises, whether it be the financial downturn in 2008 and 2009, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 or the day-to-day assistance it always provides, the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC and its Rina Shkolnik Kosher Food Panty at the SHOP have been serving as a pickup and delivery service with food for older adults and those enduring hard times amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Since mid-March, the SHOP – Sustenance Hope Opportunities Place – in Cedarhurst has been humming with a core group of volunteers directed by Gural JCC Associate Executive Director Stacey Feldman, putting together food deliveries for Five Towns residents, other Long Island communities and people in Brooklyn and Queens.
“Two weeks ago, when I started to put extra items in my own cart, I decided we should overstock the pantry so our clients would always have supplies on hand and not have to worry,” Feldman said.
Emphasizing that the JCC is practicing social distancing, the idea that people should be six feet apart to not spread the virus. Feldman said that only six to seven people, the same people, are assembling the orders as the clients were contacted by email, text and phone that the service was available.
“With the help of a few dedicated staff and volunteers, we have given out almost 200 food packages to the elderly and to those most in need in our community, with another 250 going out over the next few days,” JCC Chief Executive Officer Aaron Rosenfeld noted in an email.
Rosenfeld also highlighted what the JCC is doing during the health crisis. “Our social workers are in touch and ‘virtually’ seeing all their clients, including over 200 Holocaust survivors and elderly Russian Jews. Our amazing pre-school teachers have made hundreds of videos and projects for parents to share with their children, helping to maintain some continuity to their pre-school experience.” Zoom video programming is being used by the teachers.
In conjunction with Young Israel of Woodmere and Young Israel of Lawrence Cedarhurst, the JCC is looking to supply catered, cooked meals for anyone with food insecurity and older adults.
“We are it in for the long-term and will have more initiatives as soon as needs are identified,” Feldman said, adding that they are also matching clients with volunteers who are willing to get prescriptions from the pharmacy for clients and the feedback from the clients is that they are “beyond appreciative and truly thankful.”
She said SHOP social workers are creating content for the website with ideas on how to maintain mental and physical health during the outbreak. And now with people losing their jobs, Feldman said, " Having experience with the financial downturn and Hurricane Sandy, we have a well-equipped infrastructure to accept additional families who need our help."
“The JCC has been operating a kosher food pantry since 2005, and we will be there for the community as long as there is a need,” Feldman said. “We are most grateful to the UJA- Federation of New York for the support of many of your programs including the SHOP and to Community Chest South Shore for not only supporting us through our clients in need through its Neighbors in Need program.”