You are reading

Queens Non-Profit Helps Thousands Get Through Pandemic, Featured on The Today Show

Sunnyside Community Services staff distributing food at the Woodside Houses.

April 14, 2021 By Ryan Songalia

For many Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic created a financial strain that is still being felt more than a year later.

That sting has been felt more so by those who haven’t qualified for federal unemployment assistance or other pandemic benefits—primarily undocumented immigrants. That’s where Sunnyside Community Services has tried to fill the gaps.

The nonprofit organization, which provides assistance to Queens residents regardless of their immigration status, was featured last week on The Today Show in a news piece that highlighted the plight of two local immigrants who have struggled amid the pandemic.

One, a 44-year-old Sunnyside resident named Adriana, is an undocumented immigrant worker who cleans apartments to earn a living. The other, 29-year-old Myra from Corona, came from Ecuador as a child and works at a food cart.

While Myra qualified for pandemic relief as a DREAMer, Adriana did not.

Adriana continues to struggle. Her family of four all caught COVID-19, and quickly burned through their modest savings. Now they survive on her husband’s job working in the kitchen of an upscale restaurant.

When their finances were stretched to the limit, Adriana’s family turned to Sunnyside Community Services, which opened a food pantry last April after the borough was hit hard by the pandemic.

Adriana said she didn’t like seeking help. “Very shameful to go to the pantry. I was embarrassed.”

The organization, which is based on 39th Street near Queens Boulevard, has been providing community and home care assistance since 1974. Executive Director Judy Zangwill says she had not seen anything as dire as this pandemic but said that she and her staff have been trying to do what they can.

“It’s just a band-aid but it helps carry people through for a period of time,” Zangwill said.

More than 700 families have been given direct cash assistance of $1,000 by the organization since April of 2020, according to Monica Guzman, the organization’s Associate Executive Director. She said another 683 families are on a waiting list.

In addition, more than 16,500 packages of food and 157,000 face masks have been handed out, with about 600 families receiving food assistance through their pantry each week.

Guzman says the exposure from The Today Show has led to a surge of assistance from the public, both for the organization, and direct contributions to Adriana’s family.

“We’re trying to raise as much awareness as possible for the need for funding to help people like her,” Guzman said.

Guzman says there is some cause for hope, with $2.1 billion being allocated from the state budget for the Excluded Workers Fund, which will provide assistance to undocumented New Yorkers who were previously ineligible for unemployment and other benefits.

“It just remains to be seen in the fine print who is truly eligible, how easy is it going to be to get that funding, how quickly can it be turned around,” Guzman said.

In addition to emergency relief, Sunnyside Community Services continues its regular operations, which includes online support for senior citizens and meal delivery, home care workers for vulnerable residents, English language classes and legal services for immigrants, as well as after-school programs and learning labs for teens.

Assistance for the organization can be made through online cash donations through its website https://www.scsny.org/donate/make-donation and/or through purchasing items on their Amazon wishlist. Items can be shipped directly to SCS or dropped off on Mondays and Wednesdays.

email the author: [email protected]

One Comment

Click for Comments 
Gardens Watcher

Sunnyside Community Services is a great organization that has earned its reputation. Deserves community support.

Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Popular places where you can watch the Super Bowl in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

Op-Ed: This Year’s State Budget Must Prioritize Climate, Jobs, and Justice for New York

Op-Ed, Jan. 30, By Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas

In a time of rampant economic inequality and environmental injustice, it is easy to feel defeated.  Here in Queens and across New York State, however, communities are organizing for a better future. New Yorkers from different backgrounds and with different lived experiences are proving that we can build community, organize, and create a future that reflects our shared values.

LaGuardia Community College receives federal funding to expand vocational training for the unemployed

Jan. 27, 2023 By Bill Parry

LaGuardia Community College recently received more than $400,000 in federal funding to enhance and expand vocational training for underemployed New Yorkers in a city that is still working to recover from COVID-19 pandemic-induced job loss. The support was secured by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and former Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.