It’s Personal: NY Church Provides PPE for Seniors amid Pandemic
By Carl Stagner
For those living outside pandemic hotspots, who may only read or hear about them on social media or the evening news, the coronavirus may not seem like a big deal. But for residents living inside hotspots like New York City, the pandemic has posed several serious problems. United Community Church of God, in the Queens neighborhood of Laurelton, determined early in the COVID-19 outbreak not just to sit on the sidelines and wait for it all to be over. Instead, they’ve sought solutions to address the lack of PPE for seniors, observing firsthand just how real and destructive the coronavirus can be. Even as members of the congregation have faced hospitalization and lost family members, they’ve persisted all the more in their efforts to help stop the spread. For United Community Church of God, the fight against the pandemic is not only real, it’s personal.
New Yorkers are still reeling today from the lasting effects on health and society, though the peak of the pandemic’s wrath in the Big Apple was recorded a few months ago. While shelter-in-place mandates kept many residents home for these critical early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, employees deemed “essential,” by definition, could not completely avoid exposure. As a result, many seniors and others most at-risk contracted the virus when essential workers came home at the end of their shifts. Rev. Dr. David Collymore, MD, a physician who serves United Community Church of God as executive pastor and youth leader, reports a disproportionately severe impact on their city and a “direct” impact on their congregation.
“Several members became ill and required medical attention,” Pastor David explains. “Almost every member of our congregation knows someone who passed away, and several members of our congregation lost family members during the peak of the pandemic in April.”
And, while the statistics suggest a lopsided effect of COVID-19 on persons over sixty-five years of age, these figures aren’t any less grim; they represent real people. “It is heartbreaking to think about how these individuals have labored their entire lives but have been called home in the midst of this pandemic,” Chris Collymore, the church’s worship minister, explains. “Several individuals connected to our congregation passed away, and the inability to have traditional homegoing services has been emotionally and spiritually taxing.”
Advances in technology have enabled United Community Church of God, led by senior pastor Rev. Dr. Charles Collymore, to keep ministry going. Still, newer technology has historically proven challenging, and often inaccessible, to the older generation. When combined with the loneliness setting in due to prolonged isolation, it is our seniors who are among those most in need of ministry. United Community Church of God was not content to simply broadcast services online for the duration of the coronavirus crisis; they had to do something that was both safe and effective to ensure no senior would be left behind.
“Jesus clearly instructs us in Matthew 5:16 to ‘let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,’” Chris observes. “In difficult times, it is essential that the church responds and does not take a back seat to government agencies or charities. We should be intentional about responding to the needs of the communities that we are called to minister in.”
So, with a high demand for PPE (personal protective equipment like face masks, hand sanitizer, and latex gloves), resulting in shortages and increased cost, as well as long lines at the store, United Community Church of God decided to take action. Knowing that seniors often live alone and have limited help, such as transportation, and recognizing the neighborhood demographics especially affected by COVID-19, exacerbated by the initial lack of communication and resources from the government, the project became a reality in the willing hands of the church’s youth and young adults. Brainstorming ways to help the community, they opted to buy PPE wholesale and then drop the items off on the doorsteps of seniors’ homes.
“The first round of the outreach went very well,” Chris recounts. “During the first round of distribution, we were able to bless, serve, and deliver over twenty senior households in the southeast Queens community. The highlight was the expression of gratitude from the seniors as we delivered the supplies. The youth group was inspired and blessed to serve the community.”
While the pandemic remains, so does United Community Church of God. Their resolve to make a difference is strong, and their work has only just begun. How will God use this New York congregation in the days, weeks, and months ahead? Through CHOGnews, we look forward to hearing and sharing more good news from New York.
United Community Church of God is one of several congregations this year to receive a Change the Story grant. In these dire times communities are experiencing desperate need, and churches are struggling to respond. The Change the Story Fund exists to help congregations meet local, critical needs. Your gift of as little as $10 will provide micro grants that empower churches to Change the Story in their communities. Learn more and invest with your generous gift today at www.jesusisthesubject.org/change-the-story.
*Feature (top) photo: Part of the youth group, with Rev. Dr. David Collymore (far left) and Bro. Chris (center), gathered to assemble PPE “carepaks.”