Pawtucket, R.I. (March 30, 2021) – The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot in the past year, but one thing that has not changed is the YMCA’s commitment to its local communities.
The initial onset of the pandemic forced the Pawtucket Family YMCA to temporarily close its doors a year ago, but the Y’s work not only continued but it expanded as it joined local government and community partners in helping to fight the pandemic in Pawtucket and Central Falls.
“When the pandemic happened, it was an absolute tragedy for our communities. Even though places were closing, folks still needed us. We’ve stepped up and been there for the communities we serve, whether its providing childcare, serving meals, or raising awareness about COVID-19 safety, testing, and vaccinations,” said Reggie Jean, the executive director of the Pawtucket Family YMCA.
When COVID closed schools and businesses, the Pawtucket Family YMCA opened as an emergency childcare center. Because so many children were on remote learning, the Y functioned as a virtual learning center. In addition to providing support and space for those children, the Y served two hot meals, lunch and dinner. The Y expanded its meal program by distributing to families in need, seniors, and those who were under quarantine.
As of late March this year, Pawtucket Family YMCA had distributed approximately 55,000 meals.
“This isn’t a change in our mission. It’s a continuation of our mission. It’s in the fabric of who we are, to be a social-cause driven organization,” Jean said.
The Y has been directly involved in combating COVID-19 in other ways as well. The Y prepared kits with gloves, disinfectant, and other supplies for families in quarantine. The Y has also helped local businesses reopen, providing translations of CDC guidelines, printing out and laminating COVID-related signage, and providing other supplies. In all, the Y has delivered about 750 family kits and 250 business kits in Pawtucket and Central Falls.
Even as its facilities have reopened and its health and wellness programs have resumed, the Pawtucket Family YMCA has maintained these COVID-related programs and services.
About eight staff members at the Pawtucket Family YMCA have been committed to the Y’s COVID efforts. “Our staff are wearing many hats now. Their roles have changed. Someone who was focusing on health and wellness before may now be doing that but they also may be delivering food for two days out of the week,” Jean said.
In addition to food and supplies, the YMCA has been a vital source of COVID information for residents of Pawtucket and Central Falls. In the beginning of the pandemic, the Y was given a list of streets where residents had high rates of positivity and distributed flyers on symptoms and testing. The Y continues to flyer neighborhoods today—now with updated information on how to get the vaccine.
The Y, in conjunction with the National Guard, also staffed one of the state’s COVID testing facilities in Central Falls, which was recently converted into a vaccination center, with Y staff still providing support and services.
The Pawtucket Family YMCA’s efforts to fight COVID has been funded through numerous grants from Collette, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Community Development Block Grant program, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and private donations. A number of other community partners have also supported these efforts, including Dave’s Marketplace, Target, Marketbasket, and Stop and Shop, who have either donated food or gifts cards to be used for food purchases.
The BEAT COVID-19 hotline is 855-843-7620 and residents impacted by COVID-19 are urged to reach out for information and assistance whenever needed.
“Fighting COVID has been a team effort every step of the way, from those who have donated to those delivering meals, distributing flyers, or helping to translate at the testing clinic. We are grateful to everyone who has helped us rise to the challenge and continue to fulfill our mission of serving the health and welfare of our communities,” Jean said.
About the YMCA
The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 22 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. The YMCA of Pawtucket is comprised of five branches across the state: Pawtucket Family YMCA and Heritage Park YMCA Early Learning Center in Pawtucket, MacColl YMCA in Lincoln, Westwood YMCA in Coventry and Woonsocket YMCA.