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ENCORE Community Services Innovates During a Crisis


Volunteers put together food packages for Encore Services /ENCORE

By Jim Sliney Jr

When you think of the Times Square area of New York City, most people think of lights, shops, shows and street vendors. But people live there too, and many of those residents are seniors. Serving many of these seniors is the Encore Community Services.

Encore provides three primary services, housing, community services, and meals but that is an oversimplification of their community impact. Encore also provides case workers, home health services, as well as safety and security for residents. And since the arrival of the global Covid-19 pandemic, that safety has been an extra challenge – one Encore met smartly and compassionately.

MEALS

Sitting down in a common space for meals is something that can’t happen right now. Encore, who make their own meals in their industrial kitchen, are now delivering food to seniors where they live. Before this crisis they did this too, but now it is the primary way their clients are getting food. Executive director of Encore, Jeremy Kaplan explained, “Under pre-Covid circumstances we were serving 1100 meals a day, which included delivering hot meals daily, but now that need has grown to more like 1500 meals a day.” And Encore is meeting that goal by adjusting its approach by delivering non-perishables and frozen foods 2-3 times a week.

HOUSING & SENIOR CENTER

Encore operates senior housing and senior centers as well. Encore protected their residences several weeks before the rest of New York City. This meant limiting onsite access, monitoring all comings and goings, and making sure essential staff had protective equipment. But to make up for the reduced human contact so important to emotional health, Encore implemented wellness calls. Case workers, staff and volunteers call seniors and “check up on how they’re doing,” said Kaplan, “do they need help, are they continuing to get their prescriptions – and we help get them what they need”.

Maintaining socialization is an important part of what Encore does, so they have established several virtual group activities, like Zoomba classes, Bible study, a writers-group, and other interactive opportunities.


Encore Services fan deliveres food and supplies daily / ENCORE

SUPPORT

While Encore continues to support its seniors, it does not do so alone. Because Encore has its roots in the theater community of New York City (read more about their founding and history here), the theater community stepped up to help with a broad array of support including dramatic face masks made by the Theatrical Wardrobe Union. Catholic Charities of New York, of whose federation Encore is a member, source many of their volunteers, offer PPE and other support, and check-in regularly to identify what Encore’s needs are. Encore also partners with many of New York City’s departments, such as Dept of Aging, Homeless Services, Health and Mental Hygiene, and dozens of others. Networks like these ensure stability during difficult times.

NEW STRENGTH

Realizing just how much their community relied on them during this crisis, Encore’s staff naturally began brainstorming innovations. “Our staff have become closer,” said Kaplan, “They are taking initiative in new ways, coming together confidently, bravely. Teams are forming organically.” It’s clear that Kaplan is proud of, but not surprised by the commitment the staff are exhibiting, and rightly so. Keeping a multifaceted operation like theirs alive and well requires commitment and faith from the bottom to the top and back again.

NOW

If you are a senior in the Times Square neighborhood of Manhattan, don’t fear. Despite all the precautions and concerns of living in the city during the Coronavirus, Encore is still there for you. They are still taking on new meal delivery clients, and though space in their housing is limited, they have taken in new residents (after the mandated 2-week quarantine).

If you need help you can call 646-726-4299.

Thank you for all you are doing to care for our vulnerable neighbors Encore. Bravo!