TOMS RIVER – While a lot of community organizations have still not been allowed to open their doors physically to the public, they have been working to keep their doors open symbolically, by reaching out and addressing needs in other ways.
“Since the start of this pandemic, our promise to you and your family has always been to not let social distancing become social isolation,” said Peter T. Rosario, President and CEO of the Ocean County YMCA. “We have since served thousands of meals, offered critical virtual content for people of all ages, increased telephone outreach initiatives to protect our most vulnerable members, implemented online learning opportunities and remained connected with our followers on social media.”
Feeding The Community
After the school year ends, children who receive a free lunch suddenly don’t have that available any more. Local community groups have to fill in that niche.
The Y is located between Walnut Street School and Joseph A. Citta School, which both have more than 50 percent of its students partaking in the National School Lunch Program.
The Ocean County YMCA will be serving Grab N’ Go meals Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. until the end of August.
“Hunger has a lasting impact on the development of children,” said Rosario. “From the first days of this crisis, we have partnered with Fulfill by packing food boxes at the BEAT Center and distributing Crisis Relief Food Boxes at the Y. Giving kids access to nutrition-filled meals allows kids to focus, learn and become empowered to reach their full potential. The Y’s Summer Meals Program is a monumental next step in our efforts to combat hunger.” To date, the Y has served 56,467 meals and counting.
Since the beginning of the shutdown, the Ocean County YMCA worked to keep the lines of communication open with our members to see how they were doing and if we could help them in any way. “From families with children to our senior population, we wanted to check-in with them through these reassurance phone calls to see if everyone was okay,” said JoAnn Kermick, Membership Director at the Y. “To date, we have made over 2,500 phone calls, and, for many of our members, we were one of the only people they spoke to that day.”
Just as regular schools had to transition to virtual learning, the YMCA did as well. They began to offer virtual courses in subjects such as fitness, yoga, and meditation.
A book club has grown online, and even welcomed New York Times best-selling author Amy Stewart as a special virtual guest.
Since some children and parents have had difficulties with virtual school, 30-45 minute sessions with counselors have been able to help families answer the new challenges.
The governor has allowed outdoor fitness programs to continue, the YMCA has hosted outdoor classes, Rosario said.
Summer camp begins on July 6, and registration is underway. Social distancing guidelines will be followed.
“While camp will be different this year, the Y will provide a welcoming environment for campers to express themselves, try new activities, learn new skills, be creative, make lasting friendships and have a great time,” Rosario said. “This is the start of our reopening and we look forward to embracing the bright future that we all have ahead of us.”