YORKTOWN, N.Y. - While first responders fight COVID-19, residents of Yorktown have turned up to fight for their first responders. 

From providing them meals, protective gear, some kindness and even some coffee, individuals have allowed their dedication and compassion to shine through these tough times.

“I think that it’s a reflection of Yorktown values and our collective perseverance,” said Supervisor Matt Slater. “I’ve said it before, we don’t back down from a fight and no doubt we’re in a fight right now, like one we’ve never seen. To see these folks step up to the plate and provide a service to the town and our frontliners, first responders, and give us hope is just tremendous.”

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Many small businesses are finding ways to have the backs of the frontline responders.

Jonathan Baratz and his wife Lisa, owners of Bear Mountain Coffee Roasters, have donated over 50 pounds of coffee and with each 5-pound bag, a box of gloves, to first responders.

“We’ve donated 50 pounds last week and we’ll probably donate another 50 pounds in the next few days and we’ll just take it as we can going forward,” Baratz said. “It feels good. Once you start, you get the bug and you want to do a lot more. It’s a good feeling in your gut to do that.”

The 5-pound bags that Bear Mountain Coffee Roasters has donated can brew up to 300 cups each.

“These jobs out there that they are doing are 24 hours nonstop and they need all the help they can get, so it’s our little part in helping out a bit,” Baratz said.

They have even created a signature blend for the first responders called Front Line Warriors which can be purchased online with proceeds to benefit the hospital heroes. 

While Baratz and his wife are supplying the coffee to first responders, others have been providing food to ease the burden of cooking for their families.

Yorktown resident Lauren Malone began a GoFundMe page called Yorktown Hospitality for First Responders, which aims to raise money to purchase meals at local restaurants.

Malone, whose husband is a firefighter, said she began the fundraiser because she wanted to do more to help first responders and restaurants in their time of need.

“The residents have made it easy; everyone jumped on board,” Malone said. “We got almost $2,500 on the first day. We’re really lucky.”

Malone said that she had previously owned a restaurant, so she understands the struggle local businesses are facing right now.

“With the money, I have been going to Yorktown restaurants and asking them to prepare food for a certain amount of people,” Malone explained. “They choose the food they make, and we pick it up and bring it to our first responders.”

So far, Malone’s effort has raised just over $6,000 and has provided meals for the Yorktown Police Department, Yorktown Ambulance Corps and Mohegan Fire Department. She has given away 10 dinners for the families of first responders in the area.

Amazingly, she said, when the last winners were chosen, “almost half of them said ‘thank you so much, but I know someone who deserves this more than me’ and wanted to pay it forward.”

Malone said that she is spacing out the funds to make sure they will last through the pandemic, but she is taking nominations of restaurants to receive meals.

Mohegan Lake Fire Department Capt. Thomas Eade expressed his appreciation for Malone’s efforts as well as others in the community.

“It means a lot. It’s a little bit of appreciation to our occupation from our residents,” Eade said. “It makes us feel nice because we’re sitting here in this high-energy type task.”

Lyle Puente, who owns the food truck Put Some Meat on Your Bones, created Free Food Fridays for first responders.

The food truck, which has partnered with the Jefferson Valley Mall’s Washington Prime Group and the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce for the event, is located in the parking lot of the mall and is offering free meals to first responders from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, though Puente said if someone shows up later, he’ll gladly make them a meal.

“Any chance to do anything for them, anytime is always a pleasure,” Puente said. “A lot of these people who work as first responders, I know a lot of them, they come here pretty regularly and it seemed like a really nice way to say thank you because they’re out there; even before this, they’re out there risking their lives all the time for us. I love all these people and it always makes me so happy to cook for them. They’re just great people. Just to know that a lot of these people are volunteers is just the best of what our community has to offer. Our neighbors are going out there on their own time and taking care of us.”

The Yorktown Lions Club has taken to helping first responders by collecting and distributing supplies.

“Everybody now is trying to do what they can to help out and so many people need help everywhere,” it’s president, Jim Poulin, said. “Our motto is ‘We Serve’ and we are serving the people who are serving us.” 

The Lions Club has used almost $1,000 of its funds to acquire N95 masks, gowns and gloves.

“We were originally trying to collect some supplies like bleach and things like that, but then we found out there is a tremendous need for the N95 masks as well as gowns, gloves and things of that respect,” said Councilman Ed Lachterman, who is also a member of the Lions Club.

Lachterman and Councilman Tom Diana were able to secure gowns and received donations of masks and gloves from a local nail salon. The Lions Club then collected two of everything and donated the supplies to the Yorktown Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Lake Mohegan Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

With a national shortage of supplies, small business Game Sportswear began creating covers for N95 masks to help first responders.

“They’re mask covers to be worn over N95 masks so that the N95 masks can be protected and re-used,” said owner Andrea Cancellieri.

She said that she has committed to donating 10,000 reusable mask covers; however, some are still in the process of being made.
Her journey began on Friday, March 20, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the PAUSE initiative.

“He basically put out a call to action for any manufacturers who could help produce PPE [personal protective equipment] and the best thing I could think of was ‘how can I make some kind of mask that’s either going to be worn or be worn over other masks?’ ”

Cancellieri said. “After doing some research nonstop over the weekend and reaching out to other manufacturers who are now looking to re-tool their facilities, we put our heads together to design a mask cover that would work for our unique machines and with materials that we either already had available or could easily get, so we just basically figured it out.”

She said the response to the masks has been “incredible.”

She said the first 5,000 units were allocated to the New York Police Department and the others will be dispersed through

Westchester County and the New York Municipal EMT, fire departments, police departments, court offices and offices throughout Yorktown Heights.

Police Chief Robert Noble expressed his gratitude in an email.

“On behalf of the Yorktown Police Department, I can’t express our thanks and appreciation to the Yorktown community enough for their amazing support during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Noble said. “We have been the grateful recipients of kind messages and delicious food deliveries to police headquarters throughout the month. The nice part about most of the food is that it has been prepared and delivered by local restaurants, who have had to adapt and overcome obstacles to their way of doing business. Even more important has been the donation of medical supplies that have come our way, via the medical supply drop box in our campus courtyard. We’ve had surgical masks, N95 masks and nitrile gloves dropped off. We share those with all Yorktown first responders upon request. All of this community support is great for morale here at Yorktown Police Department. ‘You get what you give’ and we’ll continue to give our very best to the people of Yorktown during these stressful times.”
Chamber of Commerce president Sergio Esposito said he’s not surprised to see residents step up like this. 

“I’m not surprised the people of Yorktown and the people that own businesses in Yorktown are unified and helping one another in every possible way and especially showing their thanks and gratitude to the first responders who are all out there,” Esposito said.

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