Despite having to close its doors due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, with locations in Freehold, Old Bridge and Red Bank, are continuing its vital outreach and support for the community.
More than 150 donors filled all open appointments for blood drives for the American Red Cross to address the severe supply shortage. The drives were scheduled at the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County locations on March 26 and March 27 in Freehold, Old Bridge and Red Bank.
YMCA President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Laurie Goganzer, who said she is grateful for the immediate community response, is now asking blood donors and others to assist with critical food insecurity needs at this time.
“Just two weeks ago, the gym was filled with members, the pools and workout facilities were being used for health and wellness; now, we’re opening our facility to assist with other critical needs, like a blood shortage for the American Red Cross,” she said. “We will also offer our facilities as locations where community members can safely donate food and other supplies as well as secure crisis food boxes.”
“Drop and Go” curbside food drives to benefit Fulfill – Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties – and Lunch Break, which provides food, clothing, life skills and fellowship to those in need in Monmouth County and beyond, took place on March 26 at the Freehold Family YMCA and Red Bank Family YMCA. Area residents pulled into Y parking lots and filled bins with a variety of canned goods, packaged cookies and toiletry items.
On March 27, a curbside food drive will happen simultaneously with a blood drive from noon to 5 p.m. at the Old Bridge Family YMCA at 1 Mannino Drive. The Y is requesting non-perishable food and toiletry items.
Goganzer said the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, which is based in Shrewsbury, will hold additional blood and food drives to meet the needs of the American Red Cross and the needs of local food banks during the health emergency. The Y’s Freehold Borough Community Center is now a site for distributing crisis food boxes on behalf of Fulfill, she added.
The American Red Cross was forced to cancel nearly 200 blood drives in New Jersey,
resulting in 6,500 fewer donations as of March 23, according to the Red Cross.
“As a nation, this is a time where we must take care of one another, including those most vulnerable among us in hospitals,” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO of The American Red Cross.
Donating blood is a safe process and people should not hesitate to give or receive blood, McGovern said. Red Cross representatives follow thorough safety protocols, and in response to COVID-19, additional precautions are being made.
All donors will be temperature-screened before being permitted into the blood drive and will be asked to hand sanitizer before and during the donation process. Additionally, donor beds will be sanitized and spaced to follow social distancing protocols. Red Cross staff will also check their own temperature and change gloves in between donors.
The Red Cross only collects blood from individuals who are healthy and feeling well at the time of donation, and who meet other eligibility requirements – weighing a minimum of 110 pounds and at least 16 years old.
Individuals who have been in contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 or is suspected to have it are asked to postpone their donation, as well as anyone who has recently traveled to China, Hong Kong, Macau, Iran, Italy and South Korea.
Goganzer said all YMCA health and wellness facilities closed on March 16 as part of the state’s efforts to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Blood drives will take place in the Y’s gymnasiums, which have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
“The Y’s doors may be temporarily closed, but our hearts are open and we will continue to respond to the emerging needs in our community,” Goganzer said. “The American Red Cross has appealed to the public with the motto, ‘Emergencies Don’t Take a Break.’ We are going to do our best to meet community emergencies as part of our commitment.”
For information on the Y’s future blood and food drives and other community outreach efforts, visit www.ymcanj.org/strongertogether.