“Coronavirus” might be the frequently most used word of 2020, and scientists and governments across the world are racing to understand how it works and how to best protect their citizens. But hoping for the treatment and vaccine to combat COVID-19 is not the only thing we can do right now to make a difference. Many institutions and organizations are exploring the limits of their imaginations to find new ways to keep on building community and supporting the most vulnerable amongst us in New York.
We recently talked with representatives from four NYXT community partners about how coronavirus has changed the work that they do, and how they are adjusting to the new normal. Included in this interview is Jan Lauren Greenfield, Marketing and Development at DOROT, Matt Kudish, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of NYC, Maya Nussaum, Founder & Executive Editor at Girls Write Now, and with Laurel Sheridan and Alease Annan, from the marketing team at BRIC.
“Many can’t access technology needed to continue their studies, some are living in fear for their parents who are essential workers, and all are grappling with the psychological and emotional stress of living through a pandemic.”
- Maya Nussaum of Girls Write Now
How has the Coronavirus impacted your organization? Why is your work especially important right now?
Jan Lauren Greenfield: DOROT serves the older adult population in New York City and Westchester, working to alleviate social isolation and loneliness. Social isolation, which studies show can be as damaging to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis and the requirement to isolate and practice social distancing. DOROT’s clients, 66% of whom live alone, are especially vulnerable due to age and health conditions. COVID-19 is most dangerous for adults aged 80+, who need to take extraordinary measures to safeguard their health. Seniors who previously were able to shop for themselves and enjoy community activities are now restricted to their homes. Many DOROT clients lack skills to order food online or engage in online interactions that bring comfort and community to younger adults.
Matt Kudish: The coronavirus has brought about an increase in mental health concerns among a broad base of the population. For NAMI NYC, this means we're seeing a significant increase in calls to our Helpline, as well as an increase in participation across most of our programs and services. You can't talk about this pandemic and not talk about mental health. As more New Yorkers are struggling to understand the ways in which this situation is affecting them and reaching out for assistance, they're relying on NAMI NYC to provide them with the information, education, and support they've come to expect from us over the last 38+ years.
How have you adapted your services because of the Coronavirus?
Maya Nussaum: Girls Write Now is serving the hardest hit community, folks whose parents are first responders or who are in already vulnerable situations financially and emotionally. As NYC’s schools feel the strains of transitioning to remote learning, our mentees report increased stress/anxieties. Many can’t access technology needed to continue their studies, some are living in fear for their parents who are essential workers, and all are grappling with the psychological and emotional stress of living through a pandemic. Our work must focus on providing resources, both academic as well as in wellness, throughout the duration of this crisis.
The rise of COVID-19 and New York State’s PAUSE order have resulted in the need for a drastic shift in the way that GWN conducts its programs. In response, GWN’s team transitioned overnight to full-time remote work while developing new methods and platforms for presenting curriculum online. The priority is keeping our community not just informed, but connected, bolstered, and ultimately, inspired.
Laurel Sheridan and Alease Annan: BRIC is a leading arts and media institution anchored in Downtown Brooklyn whose work spans contemporary visual and performing arts, media, and civic action. As we move through these changes and look forward to the day that we can all be together again, we have worked hard to continue to bring art, music, and entertainment to our community through our digital platforms. We launched #BRICxHome, a virtual programming series including artist interviews, musical performances, dance parties, and more on social media and our TV networks.
We were especially excited to bring our BRIC Media Education courses online with a broad range of free and wallet-friendly virtual offerings that include photography, podcasting, audio production, video editing, Photoshop, screenwriting, mobile phone filmmaking, and motion graphics. Learn more about our BRIC Media Education courses here. Additionally, we have made it easier than ever for makers across the globe to share their stories on our Emmy and Hometown Media Award-winning Brooklyn Free Speech TV network.
Matt Kudish: Our full array of programs and services - all of which are available free of charge to anyone who needs them - are now available remotely. This means you can access information and support from our Helpline, connect with others through our more than 20 monthly support groups, participate in our education classes, Ask the Expert events, and advocacy initiatives.
Maya Nussaum: We already had a good system in place to allow for the programming to go digital, including Slack, and overnight we adapted our programming to reach not only our GWN community but a global community.
--> You can learn more about these digital and programmatic innovations in the NYXT Press Play interview called, "Girls Write Now on How to Stay Together From Home."
Jan Lauren Greenfield: DOROT completely transformed our programming delivery model from onsite to online, modifying programs to best meet the needs of older adults. Our goals are to be creative, flexible, and responsive to the needs of older adults we serve, as well as to the general older adult community. Notable remote programs include:
- Caring Calls pairs hundreds of volunteers with seniors for once or twice weekly calls that are reported to be enjoyable and meaningful for both parties.
- University Without Walls offers seniors with no computer skills the ability to connect from home via the phone to stimulating conversation on subjects ranging from the arts, currents events, wellness, and much more.
- On-site programming – including dance programs, art and art history classes, etc. – transformed to Zoom, with higher numbers of participants than ever before!
- Kosher Meals from Home and Emergency Meal Delivery programs operating beyond normal capacity for seniors.
Watch DOROT's video "Stories of Friendly Visiting."
If our readers want to get involved and support your organization, what’s the first step they should take?
Matt Kudish: First and foremost, if you're worried about your mental health or the mental health of someone else in your life, please call our Helpline at 212-684-3264 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to find support. To help ensure our programs and services remain free to anyone who needs them, please support our critically important work by donating.
Jan Lauren Greenfield: Visit our website at www.dorotusa.org. We’d be particularly grateful for financial support right now to be able to expand our programs to meet a growing number of seniors in isolation during COVID-19.
Maya Nussaum: We encourage your readers to be involved in Girls Write Now by doing the following:
- Enroll as a mentor or mentee.
- Virtually attend free Girls Write Now programming including Friday Night Salons.
- Watch our current mentees perform thought-provoking pieces alongside keynote speakers at Girls Write Live: History in the Making!
- Donate today! Girls Write Now stays strong and sustainable because our champions are rallying for us. Any amount directly goes into the program and impacts young women and gender non-conforming youth.
Laurel Sheridan: BRIC needs the support of our community now, more than ever. In late March we launched the BRIC Creative Future Relief Fund to support our mission to Build Brooklyn’s Creative Future, with a goal of $1M. BRIC’s creative workforce is the lifeblood of our organization and represents a significant segment of Brooklyn’s creative economy. BRIC employs 100 full-time, 160 part-time, and 200 seasonal staff. In addition, our freelance artistic workforce consists of 35 teaching artists, 500 independent producers, and over 350 performing and visual artists whose work is featured on BRIC’s stages, channels, and gallery walls. This fund will help alleviate the anticipated economic impact on BRIC, our programs, and our dedicated creative workforce who are the heart and soul of our vibrant organization and help us reopen our doors.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Alease Annan: Every night at 7 PM a few BRIC colleagues get together and cheer on health care workers, EMTs, the NYPD, the FDNY, the DSNY, grocery store workers, package delivery personnel, apartment building maintenance staff, MTA workers, utility workers, cab drivers, dollar van drivers, farmers, bodega workers, food service workers, and countless more who are working so hard for us. In solidarity, and to show our immense gratitude - along with millions of others across New York City - we yell out of our windows, and clap, and bang our pots and pans, and then yell some more, and more, and more.
Watch BRIC's video "Your Voice, Your Vote."
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