By: Gaby Rattner
“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine at another moment of national crisis. Two hundred fifty years later, a very real threat to our personal and public health has upended our daily routines and activities along with the services we are prone to taking for granted. But even as we tackle illness, anxiety, new challenges, and inconvenience, something else is happening. Something that reaffirms the goodness of our community at a time when community seems farthest away.
This has become especially apparent to those of us who work in organizations dedicated to helping our town’s most vulnerable residents – senior citizens, special needs adults and children, and families living in subsidized housing. Being close to them, we know that they can be hardest hit by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Not just by the actual disease, but by the contagious unease, the sense of isolation, and the practical ramifications of the confinement that is now upon us all.
Equally troubling is that lower-income families in service economy jobs and families who already confront food insecurity face financial ruin as employment is suspended at best or eliminated at worst. And yet, even as schools and businesses are shuttering and streets falling silent, Greenwich residents and charitable organizations are reaching out, offering help and sustenance in innumerable ways.
Whether it is volunteering to grocery shop for senior citizens who have been urged to stay home, offering reduced prices for prepared meals, donating food to people out of work, or simply reaching out by phone to let them know they’re not forgotten, organizations and individuals have banded together in amazing ways to help those who need us more than ever.
Leading the charge have been the Greenwich United Way and Greenwich Department of Human Services. They have convened the directors of most of the area’s nonprofit organizations to coordinate not only service responses but to help provide the resources needed to execute those initiatives. They are making emergency grants to enable us to serve as many people as possible. We at Community Centers Inc. (CCI) are proud to be part of this team.
No request is too small for the group. When CCI put out the word that we needed grocery bags to deliver food generously provided by Neighbor to Neighbor and Food Rescue, the United Way responded that a shipment from Amazon was on the way. When we reached out to Jewish Family Services and Meals on Wheels to see if they could help some of the seniors we normally take to grocery shop, they recruited extra volunteers to be able to help more people. Top Chef Meals, a local for-profit business, created a menu of prepared dinners that they are offering to CCI clients at well-below its retail value. Others have offered to help make deliveries and TAG will help transport elderly residents to vital doctors’ appointments.
This is the silver lining. Out of adversity we are forging stronger networks, a broader array of services, and greater interconnectedness. In a calmer future, we hope these systems will remain at the ready, a positive legacy of these most difficult times.