Valley Streamer Kevin Aburto has a knack for helping.
As a Sanitation Department employee, for the past four years he has helped organize a holiday toy drive through the village, and last Thanksgiving he joined his fellow sanitation workers to collect more than 2,500 pounds of food, which was sent to the pantries at Holy Name of Mary and Blessed Sacrament churches.
“It’s just something I’ve always done,” Aburto, 31, said.
Now, as the coronavirus epidemic upends the lives and livelihoods of people across the country, including in Valley Stream, Aburto is at it again, asking for donations for a variety of causes, including to help feed people laid off due to the outbreak; sending food to nurses, doctors and first responders; and collecting household items and food to donate to local seniors, food pantries and anyone who might be at risk or fearful of leaving their homes because of the virus.
He started by knocking on doors. As word of the virus spread roughly three weeks ago and businesses shut down, he began asking if anyone needed a drop-off of food, medicine or water.
“I didn’t know these people,” he said. “Some of them I barely knew at all.”
He also reached out on social media, using the Facebook page he manages as a Century 21 real estate agent to ask if anyone needed items delivered.
There, he said a woman reached out, saying she needed groceries, but was afraid to leave her house because she worried what might happen to her asthmatic son if she were to bring the virus home.
Since then, Aburto’s efforts have expanded. Now he is collecting food and household items from friends and acquaintances for the food pantry at Holy Name of Mary, where, he said, demand has been high and the stock had dropped to such a low level that all that remained were canned peaches.
Sister Margie Kelly, Holy Name’s parish outreach coordinator, said the church’s food pantry supply has been particularly stressed in recent weeks. The need has been greater because many people have lost their jobs or seen their incomes reduced. At the same time, food drives for the pantry typically run by groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts have had to be canceled. And the pantry lost another steady stream of donations because parishioners who drop off food before and after weekend Mass have been told to stay home.
“I was thrilled when Kevin, just on his own, showed up with a huge van filled with food, and he had such spirit,” Kelly said. “It really made my day.”
Additionally, working with Larry Nolan, an employee of the village Highway Department, Aburto delivered groceries and household items to the Monica Village senior apartments, where Nolan’s mother-in-law lives. Arbuto and Nolan are now working with another Valley Streamer, Jennifer Maroshick, who is assembling handmade masks for the residents there.
Lucille Moran, Monica Village’s executive director, said that Aburto and Nolan dropped off roughly 75 bags of groceries, and although most residents can shop or have loved ones who do it for them, they still took them with thanks.
“It’s very helpful,” Moran said, “but even more so, it’s knowing that there’s someone out there that cares . . . It’s nice to know that there are people out there willing to help, and the residents have been very thankful.”
On March 26, Aburto set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay for food deliveries to first responders, doctors and nurses and to buy gift cards for people who have been laid off from work. Within a day, the page raised $1,400, and Aburto sent pizza deliveries from local businesses to the intensive care unit at LIJ Valley Stream and the Nassau County Police Department’s 4th Precinct, among others. As of Tuesday, the page had raised more than $3,400.
“The outpouring of support from our community, especially local restaurants . . . is truly amazing,” said Stephanie Manta, a critical care nurse at LIJ. “We are grateful for all of the food, it certainly helps us get through these long and tough shifts.”
Aburto said that none of the aid he has provided would be possible without people’s donations. “It’s nice to get involved in the community,” he said. “Every time I try to do something, it’s great how residents step up to the plate and help out however they can."
If you would like to donate, visit Aburto's GoFundMe page.