PATERSON, NJ - Residents at Governor Paterson Towers gathered earlier this month to thank area organizations and groups for donations of food and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during the scourge of the coronavirus epidemic.
Bill Priestly, head of the security committee at the senior complex, spoke on behalf of his fellow residents, saying the population at the towers had been hit hard by the virus.
When the pandemic initially rose to the forefront, PPE was in short supply, Priestly said, prompting him and other residents to reach out for help. He said that masks were delivered to one of the towers but that he personally delivered 800 of the much needed veils to the other two buildings, both of which are ten stories with each floor having 16 apartments.
“I’m glad the buildings had elevators,” Priestly said, with a smile on his face.
“The fire department came here almost every day wearing their hazardous suits to check on the sick,” Priestly said, going on to thank all the first responders, as well as the building’s security guards and maintenance staff, for their assistance. “There have been a number of deaths due to the infectious contagion."
He also expressed gratitude for food given by the United Way and Catholic Charities of Paterson as well as dairy products provided by Pequea Valley Farm, of Pennsylvania. Nearby Carmen’s Pharmacy & Medical Supply donated masks which were delivered by Councilman Luis Velez.
“It’s our honor to serve our seniors,” Councilwoman-At-Large Dr. Lillisa Mimms, who donated 250 masks, said. “Someday, I’ll be one and I will wish that someone did the same for me, but now I’m still 21 years old!”
Paterson Fire Department Battalion Chief Cameron Gardner and members of the Riverside Fire House also helped pass out food boxes and bags to residents’ apartments. Members of the Paterson Fire Department also distributed masks and thermometers.
“It’s really nice what Bill and the seniors did today,” Lt. Sharon Easton of the Paterson Police Department said. “We’re not looking for recognition but when people thank us for what we do, it makes us happy. We want the seniors to know that we will always be there for them.”
“Some seniors are scared to death to go outside their apartments because of the coronavirus,” Carlos Roldan, Director of Paterson’s Catholic Charities Food Pantry said, adding that the organization has delivered more than 21,000 bags of groceries, including fresh vegetables, milk, and eggs. “Many are lonely and some are sick. We want to help them in any way we can.”
“They bring so much that I give some away,” 67-year old Joseph Shivers, a lifelong Patersonian said expressing his gratitude for the food supplied. “They deliver everything from vegetables to peanut butter and rice.”
Responding to concerns raised by some residents that they did not have access to COVID-19 testing in house, Mayor Andre Sayegh clarified that Governor Towers is privately owned and operated, and, therefore, not included in the Paterson Housing Authority’s efforts.
In an effort to continue advocating on behalf if the seniors, a grassroots organization, Fighting Senior Citizens, has been formed Priestly said. The group, more than 25 of whom were visible at the event thanks to their red t-shirts, will meet monthly.
“I realized that we needed to band together to address issues and make our needs known,” Priestly commented.
Among the supporters of the newly formed group is community activist Ernest Rucker who was on hand to say that his own non-profit group would work together with the new entity. Rucker also pledged to expedite coronavirus testing for the seniors at The Towers.
“I’m going to talk to the mayor about it today,” Rucker promised.
Know a story we should share with readers? Email editor Steve Lenox and tell him about it.