Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Young volunteers help the vulnerable during coronavirus crisis

Elan Bolender (right), 22, is a volunteer at Me’ver movement. He helps pack groceries and meals for those who are the most vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis. Photo courtesy of Me’ver.

While crowds are lining up to buy toilet papers and groceries for themselves in an Upper West Side Whole Foods,  Daniel Peters, 21, is picking up fruits and vegetables for people he has never met. 

On the other side of the city in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Elan Bolender, 22, is packing meals and loading trucks to deliver them to households nearby.

Peters and Bolender are two of the 250 young volunteers from Me’ver Movement. Their mission is to help out those who are the most vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis in New York City. 

“We’re not doctors,” Peters, a junior at Washington University in St. Louis, said. “But as students, what we’re trying to do is provide as much support to the people who need it as we can, for those who can’t leave the house.”

He decided to skip a spring break trip with the virus raging in his Manhattan home.

At first, Peters stayed inside playing video games all day. “Then I asked myself, I am young and healthy, so why not do something more valuable?” he said. 

Peters is part of a team of  ten young NYC residents who formed a Coronavirus Task Force and searched for other volunteers. 

Volunteers help shop for groceries, package meals and then deliver them to New Yorkers in need. The food is paid for by the folks who need it.

The Me’ver Movement is growing rapidly. Peters said that they are now planning to open new chapters in Los Angeles and Dallas to help people who need support during the pandemic.

Bolender started volunteering at Me’ver earlier this month. As a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces, he said that helping others is in his blood. 

“I knew that whether it’s within our army service or in school or anywhere, I just want to be able to lend the help we can to anyone that needs it,” Bolender said. “But it doesn’t necessarily have to be this specific volunteer group. Right now, there are so many negative things going on, so let’s take a step back and help one another to spread positivity.”

The World Health Organization said that older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. Over 1.4 million New Yorkers are currently aged 60 and older. 

Me’ver has gotten a lot of personal messages from those who received their help. Bolender said one of the most memorable experiences for him was his conversation with an elderly lady he delivered meals to.

“She told us she was a volunteer when she was young. And now she is older, it’s like a full circle,” Bolender said. “She said she saw herself through what we do, and she is really grateful for everything we’ve done.”

Me’ver is not the only volunteer organization that Bolender participates in. He also helps out at Hillel At Baruch to pack groceries for those who can not leave their homes.

“If not me, then who else? That’s a question I’ve asked myself for many years growing up,” Bolender said. “If no one is going to go out there and do these things, then I have to be that person.”

 


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