For the past decade, Westchester County has partnered with Volunteer New York! to commemorate the anniversary of September 11 by encouraging residents to donate their time to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and charities.
With much of those efforts curtailed this year because of the coronavirus, Volunteer New York! an organization that inspires individuals to support nonprofits, will be focusing its efforts for the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks by helping to ease food insecurity.
Volunteer New York! Executive Director Jeanette Gisbert said the issue of hunger and food shortages have been exacerbated in communities across the region as a result of the shutdown and the ensuing loss of thousands of jobs in various industries as a result of the pandemic. Over the past five to six months it is an issue that has been repeatedly highlighted by representatives from scores of community organizations that Volunteer New York! has partnered with, she said.
Gisbert said this year’s 9/11: Serve + Remember initiative, the #911day COVID-19 Relief Healthy Food Drive, is a safe way to help those in need.
“Through these conversations, the issue of food insecurity started to bubble up, not only from the traditional food pantries and soup kitchens you might expect, but also from organizations that provide more wraparound services as well,” she said.
The pandemic has caused an unprecedented spike in food insecurity in Westchester, with some local pantries having seen a 300 to 900 percent increase in people requesting food, according to Feeding Westchester.
Residents in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties looking to help should visit the Volunteer New York! website, www.volunteernewyork.org/service, and sign up to donate food items to one of 11 pantries or organizations in the region, including nine in Westchester and one in Putnam. Once a person registers, they will be sent an e-mail with instructions, which includes the items that are in short supply for each organization.
Speaking in front of Westchester’s 9/11 memorial The Rising Wednesday morning at Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla, County Executive George Latimer said the tragedy the nation experienced 19 years ago has motivated people to help others in their communities.
“The volunteerism that came out of working on the pile, the volunteer spirit that took people up the towers to save lives is what you gain out of this experience,” Latimer said. “That is something you can build on, something good, and we’re happy to focus on that element, that element of volunteerism that was in effect that day and in the aftermath of that day, and now can also symbolize for us what 9/11 is.”
The Westchester-based organizations that are participating in the #911day COVID-19 Relief Healthy Food Drive are Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill (CHHOP)/Fred’s Pantry, Peekskill; Hope Community Services, New Rochelle; Community Food Pantry of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown; the Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry, Mount Kisco; the Don Bosco Community Center, Port Chester; United Community Center of Westchester, New Rochelle; the Thomas H. Slater Center, White Plains; Life Progressive Services Group, Inc., Mount Vernon; and the Ossining Food Pantry, Ossining.
Putnam Community Action of Brewster is also participating in the drive.