By Sherry Waldman and Ethan Gyles
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Providence in March 2020, Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune convened a call with local non-profit organizations including SNA, Mt. Hope Community Center (MHCC), Jewish Collaborative Services (JCS), and others to discuss how to prepare to help neighbors in need. SNA contributed by organizing a mutual aid list to match volunteers with need and administered it throughout the past year, as well as fundraised to offset the costs of food and goods purchased for folks who were experiencing financial hardship. Volunteer services included picking up medications and groceries for those who couldn’t leave their homes, or who were especially vulnerable to health complications. Over one hundred and fifty volunteers signed on. We also worked with Rep. Rebecca Kislak to run a check-in phone bank to call our elderly neighbors and make sure they were okay, as well as provide information about available resources.
In addition to answering the dozens of individual requests for aid we received, tapping into the outpouring of community volunteers also helped SNA assist MHCC to deliver food bags to people who could not get out, as well as helped Higher Ground International’s Rukiya Center deliver hot meals to those in need. Volunteers were eager to assist and, on Wednesdays and Fridays, up to ten volunteers came to the MHCC offices to pick up groceries and bring them to primarily elderly and disabled community members.
On Friday mornings, a few volunteers also help unload pallets from the RI Food Bank truck at the Camp Street Community Ministries (CSCM) across the street from MHCC, and then bag up the food for delivery. Each of the forty-three to sixty recipient households gets two to three bags of dried goods and fresh produce weekly. This has been a year-long effort of coordination between multiple community organizations and individuals – an impressive feat of endurance!
In addition, local business leaders Milena Pagan from Rebelle Artisan Bagels and Becca Brady from Hometown Poke & Cafe donated or offered at heavy discount a bounty of baked goods and fresh produce to the MHCC’s food pantry over the past few months. A big thanks to these businesses that continue to give more than delicious food to our neighborhood, and to all the community organizers and volunteers who jumped in to support their neighbors!
SNA is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Helen Dukes, Eugene Monteiro, and Marcus Mitchell at MHCC, Jackie Watson at CSCM, Henrietta White-Holder of the Rukiya Center, Erin Minor at JCS, Rep. Kislak, Councilwoman LaFortune, and to help our neighbors!
Contact Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to volunteer – the need goes on!