YMCA partners with local agencies to distribute nearly 10,000 meals and food supplies during pandemic

Cars line up for meal kits distributed by the Old Bridge Family YMCA as part of the Y’s COVID-19 response. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSHUA REED
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Cars line up for meal kits distributed by the Old Bridge Family YMCA as part of the Y’s COVID-19 response. PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSHUA REED

The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County pivoted immediately when its facilities shut down in March as the COVID crisis started. The gym floors, exercise spaces and pools were vacant, but employees and volunteers jumped into action to respond to critical community needs.

Working in partnership with area food banks and community organizations, the Y has been distributing hundreds of meals and food supplies four days a week at their facilities in Old Bridge, Freehold, Middletown and Red Bank, according to information provided by the Y.

When YMCAs throughout the state were ordered to close their doors in the initial phase of what would become a national health crisis, the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County quickly turned its health and wellness facilities into community hubs for food, meals and other essential services. The Y initiated and carried out blood drives and COVID-19 testing at several facilities. The Y also offered emergency child care for essential workers, and mental health services for community members struggling during the crisis, according to the statement.

“We knew that this unprecedented event would compound stress factors for people in our community who were already struggling to make ends meet. The added pressure of social isolation, health and safety fears, concerns about job loss and food insecurity would have a big impact on those we served. We identified our most immediate needs and did what we could to become a critical safety net and support system,” Y President and CEO Laurie Goganzer said in the statement.

Goganzer said dozens of volunteers have worked over 160 hours assisting with the recent food distribution and food drives – all part of the Y’s Togetherhood initiative, which recruits Y members to provide support outside the walls of the Y.

“Togetherhood has been an amazing resource and fit for this project,” she said in the statement. “We are blessed with community members who stepped up to the plate during this crisis. It’s overwhelming when we realize all that our volunteers do.”

The Y has also collected nonperishable food, infant formula, diapers, and hygiene items for the Old Bridge Township Food Bank, Lunch Break and Fulfill.

The Y will continue food distribution at these locations until further notice: Old Bridge Family YMCA, 1 Mannino Park Dr., Old Bridge, from noon to 4 p.m. Mondays; Red Bank Family YMCA, 166 Maple Ave., Red Bank, from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesdays; and Bayshore Family Success Center, 945 Route 36, Leonardo, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays by appointment, and Fridays.

Goganzer said the Y anticipates the need for food supplies will continue through the state’s gradual reopening, especially as schools close for the summer, ending their breakfast and lunch services.

The Y will continue to provide critical mental health counseling via telehealth and by appointment at its counseling and social services centers in Matawan and Eatontown.

Virtual health and wellness classes will also continue, and on June 26 the Y will launch outdoor classes in Old Bridge, Freehold, and Red Bank. Pickle Ball will also be available in Red Bank.

Child care is available for families at the Freehold Family YMCA, and summer day camps will open July 6 in Freehold and Camp Zehnder in Wall.

Additionally, COVID-19 testing is ongoing Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the Red Bank YMCA by the VNA of Central New Jersey’s Community Health Centers.

For more information on food distribution, donations, volunteering or other Y programs and services, connect with the Y at www.ymcanj.org or on social media by following @ymcaGMC.