April 27, 2020

Carmel and Mahopac salute front line workers

Author: Liza Frenette
Source:  NYSUT Communications
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Caption: Carmel Teachers Association members recognized cafeteria workers who prepare meals that are sent to students in need while schools are closed. “We met them at 5:30 a.m. and brought breakfast to the cafeteria workers and administrative team. We also had signs saying ‘Thank You.’”

It not only takes a village – it takes several villages with bustling union members to get food to overworked medical workers at dozens of hospitals in the tri-state area, and help others on front lines of this pandemic.

The Mahopac TA partnered with the Carmel TA to send deli sandwiches and assorted food to Putnam Hospital Center for health care workers, with members Marisa Horvath, Kerry Price and Adam Dusenbury organizing the efforts, said Tom McMahon, president of the MTA.

Local deli owners prepared and delivered the dinners on four different nights last week – providing service even during a downpour, high winds and a power outage. The outreach helped provide income to local businesses, and it was a way to thank the nurses, doctors and other medical, administrative and custodial staff who are risking their lives treating patients with COVID–19.

Following the four nights sending meals in tandem with MTA, the Carmel TA provided meals to hospital workers for an additional three nights.

“We sent 50 meals each day … doctors, nurses, custodial staff,” said Lisa Jackson, president of the Carmel TA. “We’re all safe at home and they put themselves in harm’s way. It’s the selflessness — they have families, and they don’t know what the outcome is, day to day. They’re really the heroes in all this.”

The Carmel TA was already in the midst of several community outreach projects, having returned to NYSUT’s Local Action Project in 2019, coming back with new leaders to explore community and member engagement after a first round at LAP in 1999. They had ordered more than 1,000 two-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer — before the pandemic hit — to give away at events, but the TA sent 900 bottles to union colleagues at SUNY Downstate Hospital, where many staff belong to United University Professions.

Jackson said CTA also recognized the cafeteria workers, who are still showing up, using safe distancing, to prepare meals that are sent to students in need while schools are closed.

“We met them at 5:30 a.m. and brought breakfast to the cafeteria workers and administrative team,” she said. “We also had signs saying ‘Thank You.’”

Members of the Carmel Cafeteria Association show up every Monday to prepare meals for the week. Jackson noted that Moriah Olsen, NYSUT labor relations specialist and a member of Professional Staff Association, made masks for them.

Since the CTA cannot host its annual golf outing, which is the primary fundraiser for 30 scholarships to seniors, the union is working on getting a virtual 5K together as an alternate fundraiser, asking each member to donate $25.

“The senior class is so hard hit this year,” said Jackson, who is a school guidance counselor.

The busy unionists are working on a pizza delivery for those who provide day care to children of front-line hospital workers.

“Our LAP team is hard at work,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to touch every piece of the puzzle for all of the people who are keeping our community running.”

Individual members have contributed a lot to the outreach, including science teacher Eugene Pepe and his wife, Tricia, who used supplies and a machine from her stationery store to make more than 1,500 face shields that they donated, Jackson said.

Mahopac elementary ENL teacher and softball coach Cristina Giansante is a force of nature. When the pandemic first hit she used an app to send money to friends who are hospital nurses so they could buy coffee during long shifts. Another friend wanted to help out, so the next day they dropped off food to an entire unit at Lawrence Hospital. Then they texted friends and family to see who wanted in, and within an hour they had $1,000.

They bought food from local businesses for medical staff at four different hospitals. Donations come from teachers, faculty, booster club members, the softball team — and the radius of their deliveries reaches throughout the adjoining regions of lower New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. As of this week they have fed 1,500 people at 23 different hospitals, she said.

“Her efforts have been absolutely amazing during this time,” said McMahon.

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