Commonpoint Queens connects community during pandemic
by Michael Perlman
May 20, 2020 | 2711 views | 0 0 comments | 160 160 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Commonpoint Queens, which is a partnership of the Central Queens Y in Forest Hills and Samuel Field Y in Little Neck, has been expanding its services to provide virtual classes, programs, and humanitarian aid during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The name Commonpoint Queens isn’t even two years old, but our community began to truly grasp how the partnership afforded so many incredible resources, while still offering the ‘home away from home’ programs that previous generations depended on us for,” said 34-year-old director of Communications Jared Mintz, who began working at the Samuel Field Y as a summer camp counselor at 16.

“Partnering with schools, senior centers, and the City of New York to address community needs that go beyond socialization opportunities and delve into food insecurity, career assistance, and mental health services has really helped us evolve from neighborhood Y’s to one of the largest social services organizations in our huge city,” he added.

In response to the pandemic, the organization’s humanitarian pursuits are broad.

“We had staff and volunteers make thousands of masks and protective face wear to be donated to frontline workers, including the NYPD and local hospitals,” Mintz said.

Nearly 70,000 meals have been provided through its food pantry and senior meal delivery service, with over 30 drivers delivering across the borough six days per week. In partnership with the Department of Education, youth staff is providing emergency childcare at local schools.

In addition, the CAPE Mental Health Clinic witnessed a 50-percent increase in virtual psychotherapy and tele-psychiatry sessions since the pandemic, providing over 3,000 session hours.

“We are also providing financial counseling, helping community members navigate the unemployment process and helping with benefit enrollment,” Mintz said. “We've even been able to help with a handful of job placements during the pandemic. Our Youth Workforce department helped young people learn how to code, provided career path webinars, and other counseling opportunities despite a lack of funding for Summer Youth Employment programs this summer.”

High school programs continue to provide group and one-on-one counseling for over 7,000 students at Forest Hills High School, John Bowne High School, Queens High School of Teaching, Martin Van Buren High School, and Queens Academy, including mentorship groups, internship training, and College Now classes.

Since March 16, a total of 8,512 hours of virtual programming has been provided to 20,000 children, teens, and adults, with new virtual classes from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Exercise classes saw nearly 6,000 logins, including Zumba, kickboxing, and basketball and soccer skills.

“All ages are appreciative of these free classes, as we're giving close to 30 per week,” said Mintz. “We hear from many of our seniors how much comfort they take in being able to see friends and instructors when they participate in virtual social groups.”

The organization has also been providing emergency childcare services for frontline workers for the past two months. Staff practice social distancing and incorporate programming that allows children and staff to interact from a safe distance.

“When we’re able to reopen, we’re looking at the safest ways to encourage the community to return to our buildings,” Mintz said. “Our maintenance staff has been vigorously cleaning our buildings, rooms, and pool clubs. We would love to welcome our pool club members back in some capacity at our Bayside and Little Neck pools, and we also operate a handful of summer camps that our families spend 10 months looking forward to.

“If our buildings have to remain closed, we want our families and Queens to know that we’re doing everything in our power to continue delivering groceries and meals as long as they need us to,” Mintz added. “We’re going to continue to offer mental health services, career services, exercise classes, and other socialization programs.”

As a nonprofit, Commonpoint Queens relies heavily on donations. Donations are being accepted at commonpointqueens.org/donate.

“Our community's generosity helps us remain relatively intact and reach more people through our emergency services,” Mintz said. “To see so many people step up and lead us through difficult times will never stop being heartwarming.”
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