Despite having to close due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County, with locations in Freehold Township, Freehold Borough, Old Bridge and Red Bank, is continuing its outreach and support for the community.
More than 150 donors recently filled all open appointments for blood drives for the American Red Cross to address a severe shortage of blood.
YMCA President and Chief Executive Officer Laurie Goganzer, who said she is grateful for the immediate community response, is now asking blood donors and other individuals 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 are opening our facility to assist with other critical needs, like blood drives for the American Red Cross,” Goganzer 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,” she said.
“Drop and Go” curbside food drives to benefit Fulfill – a food bank which serves 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 the Red Bank Family YMCA.
Area residents pulled into YMCA parking lots and filled bins with canned goods, packaged cookies and toiletry items.
On March 27, a curbside food drive took place simultaneously with a blood drive at the Old Bridge Family YMCA.
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 coronavirus emergency.
The YMCA’s Freehold Borough Community Center is now a site for distributing crisis food boxes on behalf of Fulfill, she added.
With the outbreak of the coronavirus in the Garden State, the American Red Cross had 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 potential donors will be temperature-screened before being permitted into a blood drive and will be asked to use hand sanitizer before and during the donation process. Donor beds will be sanitized and spaced to follow social distancing protocols. Red Cross staff members will 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 at least 110 pounds and being at least 16 years old.
Individuals who have been in contact with a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who is suspected to have the disease will be 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 YMCA’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.
“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,” she said.
For information about the YMCA’s future blood drives and food drives, and other community outreach efforts, visit www.ymcanj.org/strongertogether