Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Roosevelt Island Heroes In Action - RIDA, NYCEM CERT & Evangel Food Pantry Volunteers Deliver Free Meals To Roosevelt Island Elderly And Homebound During Coronavirus Pandemic - We Want To Help Our Neighbors, That's What Roosevelt island Is All About Says RIDA President Wendy Hersh

Volunteers, led by Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA) President Wendy Hersh, together with the Long Island City based Evangel Church Food Pantry and the NYC Emergency Management Department (NYCEM) Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members are delivering free meals to Roosevelt Island elderly and homebound residents during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Image Of RIDA, Evangel and NYC CERT Members Prior To Delivering Food Saturday May 2

Ms Hersh reports providing meals to between 170 and 200 people daily including:
320 meals a day Monday thru Friday (breakfasts and lunches). 550 bags of groceries each week (dairy, canned food, pasta, cereal, other nonperishables, fresh veggies and fruit, juice and sometimes meat). as well as 185 small grocery boxes on Saturdays.

200 catered dinner meals last Saturday and Sunday.
Last Saturday before beginning their food distribution, I spoke with
about what they are doing. Here's what they said.

Ms Hersh expressed great thanks to Carolyn Marko of the Evangel Church Food Pantry, noting::
People think Roosevelt Island is Timbuktu. We could not get any food. I called Carolyn up Twelve o'clock one day and by 4 o'clock she delivered five hundred fifty bags to us....

... We just want to help our neighbors. That's what Roosevelt Island is all about...

According to Ms Marko:
We have a food panty that operates on Saturdays. we were feeding probably about 600 families which equals about 1200 people. We feed them breakfast and we do ESL classes with them but as soon as this pandemic happened and the school closed we turned the school into a food hub for food bank and City Harvest...

... When  I heard there were seniors, that's very dear to my heart, and I know they can't leave their house. We don't want them to get sick so we just set this up. I love the people here they're wonderful. I love their hearts and we're just happy to be able to bless them with food.

We're going around to all the NYCHA houses all over the five boroughs and bringing food to them. We have deliveries that we do individually. We've delivered to almost 3,000 individual families. We've done three hundred thousand meals in four weeks delivering to all over New York....

From CERT Operations Chief Paul Curiale
It's a pleasure work with Wendy and the team and just to meet some new friends. This has really been a great connection and just speaking on behalf of New York City from the CERT team. We've got some great projects over the years, parades and also the Tunnels to Tower but there's something unique about this.

This is survival. This is people who rely on us every Saturday when Wendy comes in with her lists and we go door-to-door with the volunteers and each volunteer that that has worked with our CERT members are so excited to be here. We had had a young lady that comes with. her mom. She's 12 years old in sixth grade and she was just so excited to be part of this and that's the excitement that we see generated through all of this.

I'm a Brooklynite and I know the Island.  I come here often. I cycle throughout the city and I love cycling here it is a great honor and privilege to come here every Saturday and to help out for this island and to the residents here
Image Of Volunteers Getting Ready To Distribute Food

And  CERT Operations Deputy Chief Terese Flores
... it's so easy to volunteer here and being a part of CERT makes us safe and being able to be a part of a very considerate operation that Wendy has created and Frank has invited us makes it really easy to volunteer in such a difficult time.

I live down the street on 36th Avenue in Queens but I feel like Roosevelt is now part of my community so I want to really thank Frank for welcoming me into this.
Image Of CERT Volunteers Farance, Curiale & Flores Waiting For Elevator To Distribute Food

CERT's Paul Curiale added that he hopes to replicate the Roosevelt Island model of food distribution during the Coronavirus Pandemic to other NYC neighborhoods including Starret City in Brooklyn and NYCHA housing.

Roosevelt Island resident and CERT Incident Commander Frank Farance shares this April 29 report on the Roosevelt Island Coronavirus Food Distribution operations:
FEMA Region 2 (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands) covered NYC CERTs, including the Roosevelt Island Food Distribution in partnership with the Roosevelt Island Disabled Association (RIDA).

Last Saturday we had almost 40 volunteers delivering 170+ boxes (approx 700 meals), and all but two were repeat volunteers! In addition to RIDA, Mosaic Church, CC Management (Eastwood / Roosevelt Landings), Carter Burden, Bushwick Pantry, City Meals on Wheels, and other organizations have contributed to this effort. Wendy Hersh, of RIDA, is ever-present with her help and enthusiasm. Local Roosevelt Island CERTs participating: Frank Farance, Howard Polivy, Dimitri Bznuni. Other CERTs come from Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx ... just to support Roosevelt Island.

Here is an excerpt of FEMA's newsletter "Preparedness and Resilience Bulletin: Empowering People and Communities", April 28, 2020, that highlights the Roosevelt Island effort on the bottom of page 7, top of page 8 -- I've attached the full newsletter, which contains loads of useful information, including COVID-19 preparation.

This Saturday will be Week 5 of NYC CERTs supporting the Roosevelt Island Food Distribution. We have learned several valuable lessons and those insights are being shared to improve City-wide efforts and volunteer efforts in other communities throughout the City.

CERTs are very enthused about making an investment into the Roosevelt Island community, as this volunteer response will be ongoing and necessary, and the use of FEMA-standardized NIMS (National Incident Management System), the CIMS (City Incident Management System), and the Incident Command Structure (ICS) support a standardized structure and operation that can be adapted as needs change for the Roosevelt Island community.

As I tell new volunteers during their orientation: "If a tornado blew through a town in Oklahoma, wiping away the West side of town, the East side of town would come to help, and the orientation and training they would be receiving there in Oklahoma is almost identical to the orientation and training you are getting here on Roosevelt Island: this is a common national process and structure".

In our orientation, which many people find valuable, we cover:

The role of being a volunteer
How volunteers make a difference
Incident Command System
Basic structure
Unity of command
Safety protocols
Safety First, staying safe
Buddy System
Regular reporting
Accountability (if you don't report in, we're sending a search and rescue team to find you - really!)
No-Contact food delivery protocol, including:
Social distancing
Accommodating disability, access, and functional needs (DAFN)
Particulars for Roosevelt Island (e.g., Up, Down, Level apartments in Eastwood; individual buildings' delivery policies)
Psychological First Aid
Not a mental health professional, not a diagnosis, not a treatment - just first aid
Awareness and protocol for interacting with people who have suffered trauma (do's/don'ts), providing information (e.g., 1-888-NYC-WELL for mental health care/support)
Personal Self-Care: awareness of one's own mental health and support
Operational feedback from all participants
Mid-cycle feedback, incorporated into same operational cycle (a refinement for our operations)

This orientation is based upon FEMA 244, including spontaneous volunteers responding to an incident, and other FEMA, NYS DHSES, NYCEM, and CERT guidance and trainings.

Thus, with these orientations, we can enable volunteers to be helpful over the longer term -- and that's a Good Thing for the Roosevelt Island community.
And here's more on the Evangel Food Pantry from their Facebook Page.

We're experiencing a very difficult time, but we have Roosevelt Island heroes to help us out and to thank.

UPDATE 5/26 - Ms Hersh adds:
Our sincere thanks to Islamic Society of Roosevelt Island

for their weekly fresh fruit donation to help us feed those in need during this crisis.