An Elmsford-based food pantry is working with Department of Social Services personnel in Westchester, Putnam and Fairfield counties to locate people who are quarantined or isolated from the coronavirus.
Hillside Food Outreach, which has worked with the counties to deliver twice-monthly food packages to people in need, particularly seniors, was contacted last weekend by the Westchester County Department of Social Services to see if it could expand its services, said Kathy Purdy, the organization’s founder.
Purdy said she was put in contact with a mother of two young children who is sick and tested positive for COVID-19 and cannot leave the house. While quarantined residents who aren’t sick but have been exposed to someone who has the disease must remain home two weeks, those who test positive must have two negative tests before they can leave home, which could last several more weeks, she said.
“I don’t think any one of us in our lifetime has ever experiences something like this,” Purdy said.
Hillside has more than 300 volunteers who deliver the packages to residents in the three counties. The nonprofit organization, which Purdy started 23 years ago, will continue to make its regular rounds in addition to the likely growing numbers of requests it will receive for people stranded because of the growing health crisis, Purdy said.
Since those eligible for the coronavirus coverage are being identified through the counties, she urged anyone who is quarantined or knows of someone who is quarantined and does not have anyone to go shopping for them to contact their home county’s Department of Social Services.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, Purdy said there were 15 to 20 additional people who had been signed up for the new service.
“We don’t know what we’re looking at, we don’t know how long this is going to go on,” Purdy said. “We don’t know how many people have it; it seems to be spiraling numbers every day. This is really an unknown.”
To protect the volunteers from excessive risk, Hillside calls the quarantined person to arrange for an approximate delivery time, she said. The volunteer leaves the groceries outside the door or on the porch. Volunteers do not enter the home, touch the door, doorknob, doorbell or any other object.
Purdy said the volunteer will then call the resident to notify the person that their package has been delivered.
“I am amazed. We can always use volunteers,” Purdy said. “I’m amazed people are coming forward even in this contagious atmosphere to help out their neighbors. It’s just incredible.”
In addition to food, Hillside has been including certain over-the-counter products that it may have in stock at its Elmsford warehouse, such as Tylenol, Purdy said.
As much as Hillside Food Outreach needs volunteers, it also needs monetary donations to keep up with the increased demand. Hillside buys all of its food from Wakefern Food Corp., which is ShopRite’s parent company.
For those who need deliveries because they are quarantined or cannot leave their home or know someone who is in that situation, they are asked to contact their county’s Department of Social Services. The public can also call United Way of Westchester and Putnam’s 211 helpline.
To make donations or to find out more about Hillside Food Outreach, visit www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org.
“We need people to be aware, so we can help more people,” Purdy said.