8 Affiliate Stories from the Early Days of the Pandemic
We can't believe it's been two full years since the pandemic shut down our city and New Yorkers began adapting to a "new normal."
Despite the long and dark season, we saw sparks of hope, which are captured in these stories that our affiliates shared about the earliest pandemic days. Read on to hear how the Hope for New York Relief Fund, launched to provide immediate emergency relief to our affiliate partners, supported them in caring for their communities.
Beacon Christian Community Health Center
"With the Relief grant, we were able to acquire a specialty infant formula, Alimentium, that is not used very often and is very expensive. It was delivered to our office and Dr. L.'s medical assistant mentioned one of our patients was out of formula but couldn’t purchase it because it was expensive. The formula? Alimentium. So we called the mom and she was thrilled. God is alive and working here with us at Beacon. This story makes abundantly clear the hope that Hope for New York’s grant funding provides each and every day."
City Relief (formerly New York City Relief)
"One of City Relief's staff members, Josiah Haken, met 'John' at our 14th St. outreach in mid-March. John had been living on the street and having difficulty accessing services. John has a quiet demeanor with a servant’s heart, and Josiah immediately thought that he would be a great candidate for the Peer Empowerment Program (PEP) pilot. But without committing to the program, John decided to begin volunteering with us.
"When an opportunity to stay in a hotel was presented, he was reluctant. He eventually said yes but had difficulty staying in the hotel. Unfortunately, he left the hotel one day but left all of his belongings. After a month, the hotel called to say that they had heard from John and that he was at the hospital. He had gotten into an altercation and was arrested and then sent to Bellevue for monitoring and support.
"Tricia, our Director of Follow-up Care, dedicated hours advocating for John to be part of a Bellevue program that could address his holistic needs. Since mid-July, John has moved into his own studio apartment in Brooklyn as part of supportive housing that can also address his mental health needs. We also worked with him to replace some of his documents, like his birth certificate, and to receive his stimulus check.
"John has now graduated from our Peer Empowerment Program (PEP) and continues to serve with us and empower other new participants of the PEP program. John received his birth certificate and was so excited to learn that his mom was born in Brooklyn where he now resides. One of the greatest blessings of our mission is to watch the fire of hope and possibility ignite within the people we are serving."
"Our Children's Director reached out to the local schools to let them know that we would provide groceries to people in need. A school social worker called and told us a family affected by the virus needed adult bladder control pads. We responded that we were just offered these for the first time the day before. As we spoke to the young lady in need, she asked if we could talk to her sister, who was struggling with extreme anxiety. As we prayed for her sister over the phone and started to provide weekly groceries to her family, she started to come to virtual church and Bible study. She has given her heart to the Lord and has expressed that she has finally found peace in the midst of this storm. Thank you HFNY for making this happen."
"Neighbor S. was housing insecure at the start of the pandemic. Graffiti 2 assisted him with accessing services, navigating the shelter system, and providing support through food and benevolence. As Graffiti 2 continued responding to COVID-19, Neighbor S. was hired to assist with food distribution and children's programs. Not only was he receiving support, he also became a support to others."
Hillside Education Center
"Most of our families are single-income families, with the vast majority being taxi drivers or restaurant workers who had been out of work for more than months. One of our families lives in one room with a shared kitchen; they received funds from the Relief grant twice. Not only had the father been ill with COVID, he didn’t have his usual work as a driver. This family was extremely thankful for the money to help with the basic costs of food, utilities, and more."
“When 'Ayla' was laid off from work due to COVID-19, she said through tears, 'At the end of the day, I have to do whatever I have to do to put food on the table, even if that means going back out on the streets.'
"At Restore, we’ve made freedom real for survivors of trafficking for over a decade with our Client Services, Housing, and Economic Empowerment programs. In response to Ayla’s desperation, we knew cash assistance was essential for her not to return to trafficking. Restore sent Ayla a check to cover a month's worth of expenses, with assurance that we would support her as a team through the pandemic. After receiving support from our COVID-19 relief fund, Ayla said, 'I'm still scared for what's coming in the future, but this provides so much peace of mind while I look for work.'
“When 'Jenny' called Restore to say she was also laid off and didn't have any money for food, we sent her a check that same day. She responded, 'I can't express how thankful I am—this is such a surprise. I thank our heavenly Father every day for Restore. I don't receive funding from anywhere else, and no one else helps me. When it feels like everyone else has forgotten about me during this time, I know Restore always remembers me.'"
The Father's Heart
"A young man walked by and saw our food pantry line. He joined the line and came in to find out that he was able to receive a few packages of food for his family. He was out of work and his wife had just given birth and they were financially struggling. And a single mom from our KidZone program came on a Saturday morning and received a dozen eggs and bread, among other items. She began to cry when retelling her story of going to nearby stores looking for eggs three times during the week but not finding any on the shelves."
"Our guests were extremely grateful for the food that was provided consistently throughout the several months of the crisis. It met their very real and impending need for food and also brought a sense of comfort and continuity that is a refuge in these difficult times. Our volunteers learned how to smile with their eyes and have a body language that spoke love and welcome. After a few weeks, we saw some of the fear and rigidity break as we kept serving and loving them. I must add that we were very grateful for the volunteers who served selflessly in spite of the fear and turmoil all around.
The Open Door
"Because of HFNY's support, Daisy was able to work with students one on one. Daisy connected with each of our students in an effort to assess and address new felt needs. Daisy then relayed the information to the team and Katelyn updated our supporters. When students needed support in terms of groceries, Katelyn initiated a Relief Fund, purchased Food Bazaar gift cards, and distributed them to students. Liza also did an amazing job of transitioning our in-person classes to virtual, equipping our students and volunteers for the challenge, and being a constant source of encouragement and appreciation for all.
"Because of these efforts, our students have been blessed! In our final class of the summer session, we asked the students how our programs have helped during this time. Here are a few responses:
- 'The Open Door has been a valuable instrument in the hands of God. You consoled us in sad moments, supported us in times of scarcity, encouraged us when behind our smiles, there was perhaps no courage. You have shown us your sincere friendship. Your testimonies have been of great encouragement to know that if others can obtain a better future for their families, with the help of God, we too can ... God is always on your side and will never leave you alone."
- 'Thank you so much to all the teachers, volunteers, Luis, Maggie and Liza . I don’t know how I can repay you for this help. You all inspired me to continue to pursue my dreams and goals. The education is the key to success and to be able to do the best in our lives...and to be able to help our kids, family and community."
- 'Thank you The Open Door for this opportunity to learn in the midst of the difficulties each one faces and thank you for each of the devotionals you shared at the end of each class which reminds us that God is always with us."
- 'Thank you Open Door Family for welcoming us all, for strengthening us in English and spiritually, for accompanying us and being aware.'"
Plus: Don't forget that your support of the HFNY Relief Fund went a long way in making sure hope, shared in these stories, continued—and still continues!