For Eric and Walty Toub, volunteering at Arch Street Teen Center on Friday mornings has not only been a chance to make a difference for Greenwich home bound seniors during the Covid-19 pandemic, but a rare opportunity to get out of their own house themselves.
On Fridays volunteers from Jewish Family Services of Greenwich and Neighbor to Neighbor have been collecting and assembling bags of food for a fleet of JFS volunteers to deliver to homebound seniors.
Eric and Walty, students at USC and University of Denver respectively, are alumni of Greenwich Country Day School, who funneled volunteers to the effort.
“We stocked shelves at the Neighbor to Neighbor food pantry when we went to GCDS,” Eric said. “But today we were upstairs in the Teen Center assembling the bags of food, and next we’ll put the bags in cars as they drive up.”
“I think today is fantastic. I’m loving it,” Walty said. “It’s a great way to get out of the house. We never get out of the house unless we go for a drive.”
“When you’re done you feel refreshed to go back home,” Eric said, adding that there are two more Toub siblings at home, and the family of six have been isolating for weeks. “We have a lot of movie nights,” he said.
Supervising the operation were Rachel Kornfeld, CEO of Jewish Family Services and Margaret Tjimos-Goldberg, Executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor.
Kornfeld said there were 210 bags of food, of which JFS delivered 154 bags. “We have a robust network of volunteers,” she said.
“We have about 50 volunteers today and they’ve each been in contact with the people who they will deliver to – to make a connection,” she said. “They call their client, speak with them and make sure everything is okay.”
Each bag was stuffed with healthy, fresh food, intended to feed a senior for a week. On May 15, there was egg salad, tuna salad and soup, much of which was donated by Garelick & Herbs.
Cindy Lyall volunteered with her son Alexander, a GHS junior, who said he had previously volunteered in Neighbor to Neighbor’s food pantry and clothing room at Christ Church, but wanted to do more.
“It’s meaningful to me because it helps out the community in this time of need,” Alexander said. “I’m glad to help.”
The organizers said Friday’s effort was being coordinated by the Commission on Aging, Neighbor to Neighbor and Jewish Family Services of Greenwich, to make sure no homebound senior goes hungry.
Friday was the third in a row of the effort for seniors.
“Together with the Commission on Aging and Southwest Connecticut Commission on Aging, they coordinated a senior deliver of grocery bags each week,” Tjimos-Goldberg said, adding that 210 bags of food were due to be delivered to individuals that day. “We’re collaborating and partnering with organizations like JFS, Meals on Wheels, Greenwich Department of Human Services, Community Centers Inc, River House, and At Home Greenwich.
“Neighbor to Neighbor sets it up as a perfect system,” Kornfeld said.
Some agencies picked up a number of bags. The Dept of Human Services picked up 36 bags in one stop. Meals on Wheels picked up 20 bags. But JFS has a slightly different system, and on Friday they had 46 individual drivers.
“We all came together. JFS is delivering for CCI clients, Dept of Human Services, River House and Commission on Aging,” Kornfeld said.
“In the past, Neighbor to Neighbor had their food pantry at Christ Church and clients would come and ‘shop,’ but that has been shut down. We’re doing this all together as one big lift,” Tjimos-Goldberg said. “It’s giving us all a common goal so people don’t fall into despair. We are able to lift this community up.”
“Typically, JFS volunteers go to client homes to pick up a shopping list, go to the store, purchase the items, deliver them back to the home, help people unpack the groceries and have a little chat,” said JFS board member Sandy Soule, describing the Supermarketing for Seniors program. “But none of the normal systems that the agencies were doing could work.”
Back on March 30, Neighbor to Neighbor responded to the increased need for food by temporarily moving their distribution to the Teen Center, shifting from a ‘client choice’ pantry to a system of pre-packed bags of groceries for delivery and distribution.
Anticipating the surge in the need for food, Icy Frantz offered to connect Neighbor to Neighbor with Kyle Silver, the Executive Director and CEO of the Arch Street Teen Center.
“Arch Street cannot do what it normally does – to provide a safe haven and a social outlet for teens,” Mrs. Frantz said in March, adding gratitude to Mr. Silver. “I am glad the space can be repurposed to meet the needs at this time.”
Also, Greenwich Parks & Rec Dept has allowed Neighbor to Neighbor to use two large storage buildings behind the Teen Center, owned by the Town.