A team of Brooklynites has raised thousands to feed front line workers, offering donations to those on the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic — and those in the background.
Love Conquers Cancer — made up of Kevin Anderson, a retired firefighter from Ladder 114 in Sunset Park, and Steven Casatelli, an active Department of Sanitation worker at Brooklyn 7 — has raised over $25,000 and provided over a thousand meals for front line workers including hospital cleaners, firefighters, and direct care providers in group homes for people with developmental disabilities.
“Everyones getting the due respect, the front line people, the first responders, but some of the people are the forgotten people,” Anderson said.
Among the group homes who received donations of food from the do-gooders are the Guild for Exceptional Children in Bay Ridge and Eden II in Staten Island. For the staff of the Guild, who have been working week-long shifts since the start of the pandemic to limit movement in and out of their houses, the donations are a welcome form of help from the outside.
“The staff see that people appreciate what they are doing, and the fact that they don’t have to cook an extra meal is a welcome break,” said Sheila Denniston, a manager at one of the Guild’s homes.
Across New York, group homes like the Guild have struggled to cope with the coronavirus, as residents and workers fall ill and management scrambles to purchase the badly needed personal protective equipment. A decade of budget cuts, combined with the state not listing the homes as priority recipients of protective equipment has only exacerbated those struggles.
On May 5, Love Conquers Cancer delivered more than 150 meals to the residence where Denniston works.
Anderson, a 28-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, says he felt the need to go out and help once the pandemic started, rather than sit at home.
“We’re sitting at home, and I just felt helpless without being out there,” he said. “I just felt I had to do something.”
Anderson then coordinated with Casatelli, and in association with Love Conquers Cancer, they formed the “Feed Them First” initiative. After just three weeks, they’ve fed 1,500 people.
The former first responder says their donations have been met with appreciation everywhere they go.
“They’re unbelievably grateful — beyond grateful,” Anderson said. “Some people even handed us a couple singles.”
Donations are accepted via Venmo @loveconquers-cancer.
This story is part of an ongoing series about group homes on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, and the pandemic’s impact on those with developmental disabilities.