April 6, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A group of local volunteers are running errands and providing assistance to the elderly and sick who are having difficulty obtaining essential items during the pandemic.
The Sunnyside/Woodside Mutual Aid Network aims to protect vulnerable residents – particularly the elderly, disabled, and people with pre-existing health issues – by reducing their need to travel and therefore allowing them to self-isolate safely.
The volunteers have been helping by doing chores like picking up groceries and medical supplies and providing other forms of support and assistance.
The group formed over two weeks ago and has close to 100 active volunteers. Members have been plastering signs in both English and Spanish throughout the Sunnyside/Woodside community that provides information about the group’s services.
The group is drawing on the skills and talents of its members to provide services including child and pet care, translators for those with language difficulties, and advice about rental rights.
Organizers said that – through these services – they are building a network of tangible relationships with neighbors that will last beyond the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re about providing solidarity,” said Michael Roytburd, a group co-founder who said the emphasis is on building interpersonal relationships– as opposed to simply raising and spending money. “We’re about empowering the community to help each other.”
Roytburd said that the group aims to connect volunteers with people in need who live in the same building or on the same block.
“What we’re trying to do is, if someone calls for help, we ask them where they are located and we find a neighbor or volunteer who lives near to them and we ask that volunteer to build a relationship.”
“Sometimes they might need groceries but sometimes they might just need a little company,” he said.
This week the group plans on rolling out a phone bank campaign where volunteers will call and check up on seniors and the sick to see how they are coping during the pandemic.
Roytburd said this is another way of creating deeper bonds between residents, while helping provide comfort to residents who are frightened and lonely. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to convey important information about what the city and other organizations are providing in terms of services.
For example, he said, volunteers are letting people know that the city is giving out three meals a day at designated school sites to people in need of food.
The group is also letting people know about the food services being offered by the Woodside/Sunnyside Community Covid-19 Relief Group which opened a new food distribution center for those in need.
The center is located in the Mosaic Church Office, located at 46-01 43rd Ave. in Sunnyside and is providing free food on weekdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Residents in need of assistance, Roytburd said, are urged to fill out this form or call (973) 709-5975.