Paterson Youth CARES Team Focuses on Food Security and Seniors’ Mental Health

NJHI 2017: Next Generation Community Leaders Youth CARES

The Paterson Youth CARES team reconnected with a desire to continue providing support and service to their community. This year, the team focused on a continued effort to address food security by directing their attention to a vulnerable demographic: Paterson’s senior citizens. The youth reconvened to develop a project that built upon their previous initiatives. The youth discussed the necessity of making food more readily accessible, especially after identifying the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on seniors. The youth came to the conclusion that providing access to food and uplifting seniors who may be coping with the negative impact of quarantine will be their primary focus. 

Food security and mental health are the two main areas of focus for the team’s project this summer. On April 17, 2021 and April 18, 2021, the youth hosted virtual BINGO sessions using the Zoom video conferencing platform. On April 28, 2021, the youth delivered food to two residential communities that serve seniors in Paterson: St. Joseph’s Rest Home and Freedom Village. The team donated at least two medium-sized boxes of non-perishable goods to each site. The food boxes also included letters from the youth to the seniors. The Paterson Youth CARES team sought to provide support to the senior residents and remind them that there are community members who care about them and hope they are well. Each recipient expressed immense gratitude for the food and the handwritten letters. The youth shared that they were elated to return to serving their community. 

As we steadily approach the summer, the goal is to continue to provide food to both St. Joseph’s Rest Home and Freedom Village at least once per month. In the next few deliveries, the youth plan to include brain teasers such as puzzles, crossword puzzles and more with the non-perishables items to keep seniors occupied throughout the day. In speaking with representatives from both sites during our bi-weekly team meetings, the youth have discovered other needs they will consider incorporating into their summer project, including partnering to maintain our community gardens.

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Kiersten Jones
New Jersey Community Development Corporation