Local leaders joined forces to create the Senior Citizen Task Force in an effort to keep those most at risk of contracting COVID-19 in Hoboken safe.
Through their efforts, more than 3,000 items were distributed including liquid soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, gloves, and masks.
They also created a new buddy system to help keep seniors informed. Next week testing in senior buildings will begin with the help of the city and Prompt MD.
The task force
“It seemed like the city was doing a great job for providing meals to [seniors] but we thought that there was an alarming concern to get hand sanitizers, masks, cleaning disinfectant and also keep them engaged… and we felt like we could be doing more,” said Hoboken Housing Authority Commissioner Andrew Impastato who helped found the task force.
The task force includes Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro; Freeholder Anthony Romano; Council members Ruben Ramos, Vanessa Falco and Tiffanie Fisher; HHA Commissioners David Mello and Erica Seitzman; HoLa’s Nicole Cammarota; Toni Tomarazzo of the Hoboken Food Pantry; the Applied’s Joe Barry; and HHA Director Marc Recko.
“The City of Hoboken is doing a fantastic job, this is not something we are doing separate from them, it just felt like we could come together and take something’s off their desk,” Impastato said.
So far, more than 27,000 meals were delivered to seniors through the city with the help of local volunteers. Another 25,000 meals will be distributed in the next two weeks.
Since March 25, the Hoboken Food Pantry has delivered groceries and/or meals to more than 2,900 residents, which includes more than 2,100 seniors.
Through the task force, Impastato has been working to acquire hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, leveraging contacts to build a network of suppliers, primarily with the assistance of Hoboken resident Jackie Princiotto of Jet.com.
Through Princiotto, Impastato has been in touch with Walmart managers throughout the region to get supplies as soon as they come into the store.
“She introduced me to the store manager of the Bayonne Walmart who I called, and luckily he said they just received 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizers, so Councilwoman Fisher and I drove out there and collected them,” Impastato said. “The Hoboken Food Pantry fronted the bill, and Joe Barry then donated $5,500 to the pantry to pay for it.”
These supplies were distributed to local seniors through the city’s meal distribution.
Now Impastato has worked with Walmart store managers throughout the area, including Kearny Walmart and Watchung Walmart as well as other distributors to gather supplies.
Stay in touch
The task force doesn’t just get needed supplies. Councilwoman Vanessa Falco teamed up with Hoboken Dual Language Charter School and its Board President Nicole Cammarota to create a new senior check-in program.
The buddy check-in program will use bilingual members of the HoLa community to reach out and call seniors who sign up to not only keep them informed of available resources but also keep them engaged with a friendly person to talk to.
“In these uncertain times our most vulnerable population is afraid and faced with new challenges,” Falco said. “They often don’t have access to tech, so they don’t necessarily know what is going on, so a lot of them are feeling confused, fearful, and anxious so we also we want to be able to say hi and just have some conversations and assist them with the loneliness.”
“We will have a network of people who can call and give them some level of comfort and reassure them,” she continued. “We know what’s most important is for them to stay home right now, but this shouldn’t be in exchange for their mental health.”
To inform seniors of the new buddy program, flyers were distributed in the city’s meal deliveries.
Seniors interested in signing up should contact Councilwoman Vanessa Falco at 201-523-4033.
Testing at home
Through a partnership between the city and Prompt MD, testing seniors in certain senior buildings will begin on April 29.
“Last Friday I went to assist in food delivery and came across a senior citizen in the hallway of 400 First Street without a mask or gloves, and she mentioned she was exposed to the virus but was not comfortable going to 14 street to get tested,” Falco said. “She didn’t know who to call and what to do and yet she was still outside which is scary. That’s why we’ve asked that, and it’s so important to have, testing brought to senior buildings.”
“Our seniors are fragile, scared, and nervous,” said Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro. “It is not only difficult for many of them to get up to 14th street for testing but it also puts them at risk of exposure. “
According to an announcement from the city, Dr. Javed Islam of Prompt MD has offered to provide the necessary equipment to test seniors in one of the senior buildings this On April 29.
If a senior’s medical insurance does not cover the cost of the test, the city will pay for it without charge to the senior.
“I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Islam and Prompt MD for coordinating with Director Leo Pellegrini, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Sgt. William Montanez, Councilman Ruben Ramos and the Council, and Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro to offer these services to Hoboken,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla said.
Seniors who need a meal, whether or not they live in a senior building, or if you know of a senior who may need a meal, call the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) hotline at city hall at 201-420-5625.