Checking his clipboard, Joel Feldstein looked for the next house to stop at. Feldstein has been a Meals on Wheels of Greater Newburgh volunteer for the past two years. Every Thursday morning, he and other volunteers take time out of their day to follow a route in the Greater Newburgh area where they deliver pre-cooked meals to clients of Meals on Wheels.
Feldstein follows a route in New Windsor. Typically Feldstein goes with a partner. He drives, and his partner rings the doorbell and hands the meal to a client. The past two weeks have been different. This week Feldstein is alone.
“Since the coronavirus, I believe a number of volunteers are not volunteering anymore,” said Feldstein. “So they split my second volunteer and I [up]. A lot of us are going out alone.”
Since New York State announced the first confirmed case of novel coronavirus [COVID-19], daily life has changed all over the state.
In order to combat the risk of COVID-19, Meals on Wheels announced changes to delivery procedures last week. Food services all over the state have announced new regulations to combat growing concerns over COVID-19.
“We are trying our best to accomodate the needs of our home-bound seniors,” said Robin Bello, Executive Director of Meals on Wheels of Greater Newburgh. “It’s a very tenuous time right now and we’re hoping things will improve.”
Feldstein and other volunteers will no longer be ringing the doorbell and waiting to greet clients. Now volunteers will be dropping meals outside of the clients’ doors and leaving. After making a meal drop, volunteers will call clients to alert them of the meals outside their doors. This change in delivery service is an effort to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19.
The volunteers who deliver will use disposable vinyl gloves. Carole McDermott, Meals on Wheels of Greater Newburgh President, said that although the change in delivery procedure is necessary, volunteers miss the in person interactions with clients.
Due to the change in delivery procedure, Feldstein doesn’t have any concerns over contracting COVID-19 while delivering. When it comes to his personal life, 73-year-old Feldstein is a heart patient and intends to be careful and reduce the risk of exposure.
Meals on Wheels will also be using a no touch thermometer, said McDermott. The organization plans to take the temperatures of those interested in entering the building as a precaution. More individuals and organizations are donating non-perishables to Meals on Wheels.
Companies like Angry Orchard have donated to the group. McDermott said that they hope to offer one bag of non-perishables to each client per week. The organization will still continue to prepare fresh food.
“Everything is a concern right now, everything is highly uncertain,” said McDermott. “We don’t plan to shut down.”
In the case of a shelter-in-place or any form of state shutdown, Meals on Wheels will be shut down. For cancellations the group posts on cancellations.com. One has to put in zip code 12550 when checking for Meals on Wheels cancellations.
“I would hate to see Meals on Wheels shut down,” said Feldstein. “The people who we deliver to are reliant on their meals from us. I’d be really disappointed if they shut down Meals on Wheels.”
Though regular worship is no longer held there, St. Mary’s Church also provides food services to the community. On the third Friday of every month, the church has a Giving Day. On Thursdays, St. Mary’s also does food deliveries to veterans. Last Saturday, St. Mary’s did a food distribution at the Fogerty’s apartments. This food distribution happens monthly.
The Newburgh Enlarged School District also provides food distribution for students from Monday to Friday. One can check distribution sites on newburghschools.org.
In the case of any form of shut down, loss of access to these organizations could be detrimental to community members.
A long line of people carrying totes, trolley bags, carts, and boxes stood outside Mannix Hall of the old St. Mary’s school last Friday. They were there for St. Mary’s Giving Day. Before entering the building they were asked to put on face masks and gloves. All volunteers wore masks and gloves.
The Giving Day was headed by Marietta Allen. St. Mary’s food pantry officially started in 201l. Allen said normally during Giving Days there are wristbands and numbers given out, but procedure has changed to limit contact as much as possible.
St. Mary’s is one of the emergency sites for the city.
“We heard the president might shut down everybody in the country,” said Allen. “Families, they need to have stuff in the freezer.” On Friday, the church offered extra meat, canned goods, fruit, soap, toilet paper, vitamins, and more.
Allen said that before organizing Friday’s Giving Day, she coordinated with the Department of Health.
“We don’t hold things back,” said Allen. “We want everybody to get as much as they can.” She said that many families have expressed gratitude.
St. Mary’s serves over 1,300 families. They have approximately 65 volunteers. It takes an entire month to source and plan the logistics for Giving Day.
“We never close,” said Allen. “We’ve been through every major emergency.” If the virus worsens, tradition may change. The pantry may have to close or they’ll have to consider making pre-made bags of food to hand out with limited contact.
Allen hopes to provide as much as possible to families before a possible food shortage.
On Friday, volunteers tried to keep attendees moving fast through the building to limit too much contact. In addition, the doors of the building were kept open for extra ventilation.
At the end of last Friday’s Giving Day, the church gave away 15 tons of food, housewares, fresh produce, and household staples.