The Young Are Volunteering More As Those Over 50 Told To Stay Home

Volunteers before the coronavirus, when they were allowed to touch one another. (Photo via MAS Youth Center)

BROOKLYN – As the coronavirus continues to spread, young volunteers are stepping up to do their part in helping their communities.

As of 10 a.m., the total amount of positive cases in NYC was 21,873. In Brooklyn, that number has gone up to 5,705 cases, and citywide 281 residents have died from coronavirus. Those over 65 and those with underlying medical conditions are most at risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says, and the city has issued guidance that if you are sick or if you are above the age of 50 (or have chronic health conditions, including chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer or a weakened immune system), “stay home and DO NOT SIGN UP to volunteer”.

So, it’s up to the younger New Yorkers.

To help the vulnerable, younger people are volunteering in their communities by delivering groceries, dropping off mail to the post office, and making and delivering food to the homeless. For many of them, this kind of service is just something they have always done. It’s just more important to continue it now, they say.

For six years now, Muslims Giving Back (MGB) has been helping its community. Every single Friday and Saturday, the Muslim Community Center (MCC), located in Sunset Park, holds a food pantry and then goes out to Manhattan to feed the homeless. The meals they give out have always been cooked, ranging from rice, chicken, vegetables, and anything else you can think of. Throughout these years, it has snowed, rained, hailed, and stormed. But despite it all, volunteers at MGB never took a break. And they aren’t planning on starting now.

“The homeless have no home. So they can’t ‘Stay Home,'” Mohamed Bahe, the founder of MGB told Bklyner. “Their home is the streets and many charitable organizations are closed or running on a limited budget and/or power.”

Last Saturday, MGB had just three volunteers that helped with packing up the lunch and then giving it out to the homeless. But still, they made over 100 plates of food. Bahe explained that food was delivered “in a safe style,” by placing the food on the table and letting people take it all without any physical contact.  For those who want to volunteer or donate, you can check out their website or Facebook page.

Another non-profit organization, Bay Ridge Cares, is “dedicated to making our community a better place by doing all the good we can, in all the ways we can, for as many as we can.” Currently, it’s providing a bunch of services to the South Brooklyn community. As of now, they have 180 volunteers that are assigned on a rolling basis as requests for aid come in. Volunteers are assigned to one person to assist with whatever they may need. Because of the nature of the coronavirus, there are strict precautions every volunteer must abide by, required by the city.

Such rules include:

  • Avoid any physical contact with the person being assisted.
  • Only contact by phone or digital media.
  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds before and after shopping. Wear gloves and a scarf/bandanna over mouth and nose if possible. Avoid public transportation.
  • Make sure the person receiving the delivery also washes their hands before handling the delivery and after they put items away. They should also wipe down used surfaces after putting the delivery away.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
  • Sneeze and/or cough in your elbow or use disposable tissue.
  • Keep a distance of six-feet from other people.
  • Do not volunteer if you feel sick.
  • No hugs, handshakes, or any other physical contact.
  • Do not enter the home, but leave the shopping at the entrance.

Bay Ridge Cares has also partnered up with Grandma’s Love (another non-profit) to make care packages of free food. Currently, they have about 180 volunteers. They are looking for more.

“Bay Ridge Cares was born out of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. We cooked and delivered 25,000 meals over 28 days during that time,” Karen Tadross, president of Bay Ridge Cares told Bkltner. “Bay Ridge was blessed that we did not have any major damage here, so myself and a number of my friends felt that we needed to do something.”

“We always felt that it was not a matter of ‘IF’ another crisis hit, but a matter of ‘WHEN’. Over the past 8 years, we have built a volunteer network of over 500 volunteers in our database, and that is a testament to the people of Bay Ridge,” Tadross said. “They want to help. They are teaching their children to help. Just like my mom taught me to help. At times like these, it all comes down to neighbors helping neighbors, which is the backbone and mission of Bay Ridge Cares.”

Volunteers can sign up by clicking this link here. 

Those involved in the Muslim American Society (MAS) Youth Center at Brooklyn (and Staten Island) have always worked in providing community service. And now they’re continuing their service by volunteering during this pandemic.

“MAS-YC aims to develop committed Muslim youth that are capable of spreading the comprehensive message of Islam, and to prepare them to be in the forefront in the development of their communities,” its website states. “In order to accomplish this, MAS-YC has sought to create multiple programs and services ranging from the spiritual and physical to the recreational and intellectual.”

Currently, they are looking for volunteers for MAS Mutual Aid.

“These days, supermarkets are out of stock and people often can’t access regular necessities. For some people, the case may be that they have overstocked (*cough* toilet paper),” Minna Abdelkader, the co-outreach director at MAS Staten Island told Bklyner. “MAS Mutual Aid is an opportunity for people to voice their needs, and/or perhaps, what they can offer. In the end, we get everyone’s responses and match them with someone who might have what they need, and vice versa.”

“Items listed do not necessarily have to be groceries, (they can be devices students need for distance learning, for example),” she continued. “Lastly, this is, of course, open to everyone in the local Staten Island and Brooklyn areas.”

“With the collaborated efforts of our leaders, Imams, scholars, teachers, directors, and volunteers, we are able to continue cultivating the valuable connectivity within the community,” she said. “Our goal amid the COVID-19 pandemic is to steer through this storm together to continue moving people to strive for God-consciousness, liberty, and justice, and to convey Islam with utmost clarity.”

To volunteer or request items/groceries, fill out this form here. 

The Pakistani American Youth Society (PAYS) is an organization located in Midwood. Its goal is to unite the community and “encourage engagement by organizing town hall events, workshops and open discussions with community leaders, members and local merchants,” its website states. During the coronavirus pandemic, PAYS is collaborating with the Shorefront Coalition and Borough President Eric Adams in an initiative called COVID19 Community Initiative.

PAYS, the Shorefront Coalition, and Adams have been “linking local restaurants that are open for business and offering delivery service to the tireless first responders working hard for us. To start, we are organizing meals delivered to Maimonides Medical Center, Coney Island Hospital, local NYPD Precincts, and local FDNY firehouses,” co-founder of PAYS Kashif Hussain told Bklyner.

“During this difficult time, we want to recognize those sacrificing themselves for all of us on the front lines. We must also do what we can to support local small businesses that are reeling and in financial distress. They are the backbone of our economy and have countless jobs at stake,” he continued. “We now ask our families, friends, and neighbors to step up if they are in a position to do so. Support these great local restaurants and route some fresh meals to our local heroes who are working to keep us all safe. Let’s look out for those who are looking out for us.”

To volunteer, reach out to PAYS or the Shorefront Coalition.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA) is a youth group that works with young Muslim men and boys around the country. According to its website, “The outreach activities of AMYA are not limited to the Muslim community. It serves the needs of all members of society irrespective of color, race, religion or creed and promotes interfaith dialogue and co-operation in order to promote peace and harmony.”

To help the vulnerable during this crisis, AMYA volunteers are offering free grocery deliveries, dropping off mail to the post office, and placing friendly phone calls to those who may feel isolated.

“Service is not only our civic duty, it is a part of our faith,” Dr. Madeel Abdullah, president of AMYA USA said, “Our members know to keep physically distant in their service, but that does not mean we stop being empathetically close to each other’s needs.”

Currently, AMYA has over a dozen volunteers in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Since they just launched, they do not have any requests yet, which is why they are encouraging neighbors to fill out their form.

To volunteer or request any sort of service, reach out to AMYA or fill out this form. 

“Islam teaches us that if we are not helping others in their times of need, then our prayers are meaningless,” Salaam Bhatti, the spokesperson of AMYA USA told Bklyner. “As Ahmadi Muslim youth, we are proud to serve our neighbors during these uncertain times.”

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Zainab Iqbal

Zainab is a staff reporter at Bklyner who sometimes writes poetry in her free time || zainab@bklyner.com

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