Charities give back to the Borough during COVID-19 –

Over the past year and a half, organizations in Queens have stepped up efforts to help residents who have been impacted — directly or indirectly — by COVID-19.

These organizations, including Commonpoint Queens, Sunnyside Shines and Queens Together, continued their charitable work through food and clothing drives, meal deliveries and other fundraising efforts that began long before the pandemic. does hit the borough.

But COVID-19 has driven them to help the community in new ways: raising money for restaurants that have been forced to lay off employees and close indoor restaurants, helping struggling small businesses apply for grants, and make appointments for residents when vaccines were first deployed. .

queens of commonality

Dozens of volunteers showed up to help distribute meals to homebound seniors on MLK Day with Commonpoint Queens. (Photo by Gabriele Holtermann)

Before merging in 2016, Commonpoint Queens operated as two separate entities: the Samuel Field Y, founded in 1954, and the Central Queens Y, founded in 1974. For decades, the social service agency was dedicated to community advocacy and to “harness philanthropic resources” to have a greater impact on those they serve.

When COVID-19 vaccines were just beginning to roll out in February, the organization worked to help older people — who were among the first groups eligible to get vaccinated — navigate the process. At the time, the organization monitored city and state websites, called medical centers and reached out to lawmakers and community partners to help the 3,000 seniors they served.

“We have organized vaccine education workshops. We sit on the phone together and walk them through the dating process. We plan transport by car service for appointments. We even met some of them on site to make sure everything was going well,” Danielle Ellman, CEO of Commonpoint Queens, said in February.

In addition to direct outreach, Commonpoint also hosted virtual information sessions to educate the community on vaccines and other resources, including sessions in Spanish and collaborations with other community organizations.

During the pandemic, the nonprofit continued its existing work running a free clothing store for young professionals seeking employment and continued to operate its food pantry in Forest Hills. In July, local resident David Abraham helped raise over $5,600 for the pantry.

“It is in need that one recognizes one’s true friends. These are words that I live my life with. I was so moved by what I saw, I knew I had to do something. I am grateful for the work done here to help those in need and proud to be part of it,” said Abraham.

Sunnyside shines

Angelica Acevedo/QNS

The Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District was enacted in October 2007 and officially began operating in April 2008. Since then, the BID has served the needs of approximately 300 Sunnyside businesses.

During COVID-19, the BID has stepped up its efforts to support small businesses in the region, from offering assistance in the form of grants to launching its first-ever virtual pop-up market. The spring event, which usually takes place at Bliss Plaza, pivoted to Facebook Live and featured dozens of local vendors selling everything from jewelry and homemade soaps to locally sourced honey.

At the end of August, Sunnyside Shines was among 13 organizations recognized for their charitable work during the pandemic. BID Executive Director Jaime-Faye Bean received the 2021 Woman of Distinction Award.

“We have tried to provide consistent assistance and support to small businesses in our region,” Bean told QNS. “The main theme for me has been meeting the needs of the community in times of crisis while connecting that to the borough’s small business ecosystem and ensuring they have the resources to survive.”

According to Bean, the BID focused on small businesses in the commercial district and helped them survive during COVID. With her help, the BID communicated COVID mandates and grant programs in English and Spanish and raised more than $100,000 for small businesses in the region. She also helped raise over $10,000 for Queens-based pantries.

“Having small businesses that understand the community, that know the people — that’s what makes our neighborhoods livable,” Bean said. “In a big city like New York, it’s so important. You need that sense of community, and I see a lot of that being generated by small businesses.

queens together

Queens Together delivers Fresh Direct pantries to Astoria Houses. (Photo courtesy of Queens Together)

Formed in March 2020, Queens Together is a non-profit organization that was conceived by former chef and executive director Jonathan Forgash and Bean.

Formerly known as “Astoria Together”, the organization started as a way to help feed frontline healthcare workers and emergency first responders by partnering with local restaurants. In its early days, the organization delivered free daily meals to four local hospitals, including Mount Sinai Queens and Elmhurst Hospital.

“Even before COVID-19, we considered them all heroes,” Forgash told QNS in April 2020. “Yes, they get paid and don’t starve, but they work brutal hours and give their all. They deserve a good comforting meal.

Forgash has used social media to raise funds for local restaurants during the pandemic and has helped around 75 of them stay open. The executive director also said the non-profit organization has delivered more than 60,000 meals to people in need across the borough.

“We fed over 200,000 people last year,” Forgash said. “I have never felt so good in the work I have done, but also with nearly 1,500 other volunteers, donors, organizations and restaurants. To be part of a group of strangers who have come together to help our neighbors, I feel really lucky.

Queens Together and Forgash have also been recognized for their charity work during COVID-19.