In early March, it became apparent that COVID-19 was going to have a profound effect on our lives. When the lockdown in NYC was announced and the pause order was put in place, I turned to my network to begin forming coalitions with the goal of helping those in need.
A friend, Mark Gavrilov, invited me to become a founding member of his Facebook group, Together For A Cause. The group sought to support the Southern Brooklyn community through this difficult time. As I participated in the group, I began seeing more and more meaningful assistance being provided to the community. The group served as a great outlet to connect and help people of all backgrounds with a common goal — to help others.
Care packages were being delivered to the elderly. Letters of appreciation and love for our seniors were sent to nursing homes and assisted living communities. Thousands of meals from local mom and pop local restaurants were being delivered to frontline and essential workers. Moreover, anyone who posted in the Together For A Cause group asking to help their loved ones always received a prompt response from the members.
If the aforementioned efforts sound familiar, it’s because they were. The good highlighted by this group was very much like the work Shorefront Coalition has been doing since its inception. My co-founder, Lev Ekster, and I set out to bolster civic engagement and the quality of life for the youth and seniors in our community. The altruism of Together For A Cause was exactly the purpose of why we formed the Shorefront Coalition and so it was extremely touching to see others also open their hearts and use their time and efforts to give back.
Part of The Shorefront Coalition’s mission has been to address the inequalities that plague our community, such as lack of information and resources reaching certain pockets of residents that are in need. This issue was glaring before but the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed this to an even higher degree. According to foodbanknyc.org, more than 1.2 million residents of NYC, or 14.4%, is classified as food-insecure. When you think of all the people who have recently lost their jobs, that number is sure to increase. We focused on forming strategic relationships with other organizations, individuals and private businesses to combat these inequalities, as well as to contribute to the battle against coronavirus. We decided to tackle this in three steps.
First, we ensured that frontline workers were supported and felt appreciated by delivering over 10,000 fresh and healthy meals to doctors, nurses, firefighters, and police officers across Brooklyn. This was accomplished with the assistance of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the Pakistani American Youth Society, led by Kashif Hussain.
Next, we aided the elderly and those who couldn’t easily shop for groceries themselves by delivering food care packages directly to their doors, over 1,000 in all, thanks to the tremendous generosity of NetCost Market and the tireless effort of iMishpacha, a local community organization.
Finally, we helped launch the “Come Break Fast With Us” initiative, in which elected officials, community organizations, and selfless volunteers arranged for food carts to serve hot meals to those in need. By the end of May, we hope to have served over 25,000 meals.
Ultimately, this situation has demonstrated one simple truth; that the most effective way to fight not only this horrible pandemic, but really all obstacles, is to form coalitions composed of like-minded and hard-working individuals, community organizations, local private businesses and our elected officials. Great progress can be achieved if we just put our differences aside and unite around worthy common goals, such as helping our local community. The work highlighted by Together for a Cause group and The Shorefront Coalition proves that this is possible and that we will be better equipped to overcome future challenges, together.