MORRISTOWN, NJ - The Coronavirus shuttered businesses and forced people to retreat into their homes. The statistics of those falling ill to this illness is staggering but people have stepped up to help their neighbors in so many incredible ways. Initiatives have begun to help restaurants, hospital employees, police and firemen. But what about the seniors?
A group of Morristown residents stepped up to make sure that the senior members of the community, in particular, residents at the Morristown Housing Authority, had food and non-perishable items. In addition to restaurants donating meals, the group estimates that they collected over 300 pounds of non-perishable items in their first food-drive.
But, citing Governor Murphy's Executive Order 107, the group was ordered to stop by the Director of the Housing Authority.
In an email on Thursday evening, the Executive Director of the Morristown Housing Authority, Keith Kinard told Lorena Inestroza, the volunteer leader, that she was to "cease and desist from any receipt or distribution of goods and/or monetary funds on behalf of the Morristown Housing Authority and for its residents.
"I commend you for your desire to help our very vulnerable elderly residents", Kinard wrote. "As I was unaware of the plans to solicit donations and given the unprecendented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, I sought legal advice regarding this issue."
Kinard emailed a copy of the attorney's opinion following the consultation with the insurance company representing the housing authority. See letter below.
Some volunteers questioned how this is different from the seniors leaving their residence to drive to a grocery store or a restaurant. Others were grateful for the outpouring of support that the group had received thus far.
"I would like to thank everyone one who donated to our most vunerable population, our beloved seniors", said Inestroza to TAP. "Never in my life have I seen a community mobilize and come together so swiftly and generously to help. The momentum this effort has gained, has left me speechless, and full of pride to be a resident of Morristown".
"It's unfortunate that this community effort has been forced to stop", she continued. "I can understand the concern for the safety and security of our vulnerable senior residents. However, I do worry considering this is the month end, any many fall short on finances awaiting their Social Security and pensions. Many don't have enough money for food. To put an end to providing food to them at this time, seems cruel".
Some readers asked what the council was doing to help the seniors located in Ward 3. TAPito Morristown reached out to Counsilman Stehan Armington.
"The Council has no authority over the Federal Housing properties, outside of our role in appointing Housing Authority members", Armington wrote in an email to TAP. "While I applaud Ms. Inestroza’s interest in helping the senior community, she is ultimately responsible for understanding and following the rules of the Housing Authority, which are established by the federal government.
Although Inestroza and the group of volunteers are disappointed, they remain optimistic that the community can work together with the Morristown Housing Authority to find a solution that will work.
"It's always been my position to be helpful and protective of our Seniors", Inestroza said. "I remain willing to assist anyone that needs direction or answers regarding food distribution for our Seniors".
In the meantime, for those who are still looking to help local seniors, donations can be made to NJ Nourish on South Street.
** Please note that the Interfaith Food Pantry is still open for emergency and supplemental grocery assistance at their Speedwell Avenue and Executive Drive Locations**