At the risk of being crass, this was a hell of a week and, frankly, we just wanted to share some good news with you. With so much happening so fast, it’s easy to miss a lot of the good going on around us while trying to stay vigilant and safe from all the hazards coronavirus is throwing our way.
But it’s important to take note of those good things — big and small — that show who we are as a county. Here are eight good things that happened in Westchester this week.
Westchester has been site to many protests, rallies, and demonstrations in the last several weeks.
This week, the staff at Phelps Hospital Northwell Health to a walk of reflection in a non-political display of solidarity with those who stand against hate and racism.
Even local artists are finding ways to help, like Caitlyn Chu, a lifelong Ardsley resident who is raising money for Black Lives Matter by selling $5 art prints. She’s already raised almost $2,000 for the case, with more hopefully on the way.
The Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon held its annual gala, originally scheduled for March. Despite switching to an all-online fundraiser, the organization still brought in record contributions. Jhaydan DeVaughn, this year’s Youth of the Year Award recipient was also awarded a $1,000 scholarship and head onto regional consideration for even further financial aid.
While closed, the Galleria White Plains is honoring its community with The Galleria of Good, an online contest where community do-gooders can be recognized for their contributions. The first winner, Susan Fassett of Yonkers, volunteers daily with the Visiting Nurser Service of Westchester/Westchester Care at Home. All winners of the contest will be viewable in the Galleria’s online Facebook gallery, receive a $100-valued gift from the mall, and will be honored at a charity reception to be held once the mall reopens. Proceeds from this “Gala of Good” will also be donated to a community nonprofit helping to fight COVID-19.
Speaking of local legends, Pelham’s famous 89 year-old Richard Altobelli, a.k.a. “Richie Bell” to locals, was released from Wartburg, becoming the senior care facility’s 12 patient to recover from COVID-19 after nearly a month in the center. Altobelli is well-known in the community, a long-time businessman who years ago even couched basketball for the orphans who once lived at the Mount Vernon campus, and still manages to donate flowers and pumpkins from his farm. “Wartburg restored me with the strength I needed to get back on my feet and home safely,” Altobelli says.
Shortly thereafter, Wartburg received a federal CARES Act grant of $988,000 to better help ofer local residents like Altobelli.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, meanwhile, celebrated the recovery of its 250th COVID-19 patient!
County Executive George Latimer stopped by the Lenoir Preserve in Yonkers to visit the site chosen for a memorial to the Westchester residents who have already lost their lives to COVID-19, and to those who will regrettably continue to succumb to the the deadly disease. The memorial is located in front of the Wightman Mansion, just inside the preserve from its parking lot. Two tree bound with a rope structure can be adorned with ribbons on which visitors can write the names of loved ones they have lost to COVID-19. Ribbons and markers are available on-site, along with designated sterilization bins to drop off permanent markers after each use.
The first round of ArtsWestchester Artist Relief Campaign grants have gone out, providing $500 grants to nine local artists whose artistic businesses have been hindered by the pandemic. You can help donate to the campaign to support even more local artists by heading to charity.gofundme.com/awrelieffund. Currently, ArtsWestchester is about halfway to their goal of raising $25,000 for the local arts community.
WMCHealth announced $1 million in funding for Hudson Valley community nonprofits, including Family Services of Westchester and The Harris Project, Lifting Up Westchester, Open Door Family Medical Center, Inc. in Ossining, and The Guidance Center of Westchester.
The Harrison Public Library Foundation has turned around its annual Take Out Taste of Harrison fund-raiser so it benefits the many local restaurants and other businesses who have donated to the library in the past. This year’s event offers $50 gift certificates from the library foundation as prizes for residents who order from about 35 local restaurants in Harrison, West Harrison, and Purchase and use the hashtag “#takeouttasteofharrison” on social media.
The Rye Chamber of Commerce has started Rye’s Up, a shop-local initiative designed to promote local businesses — members and nonmembers alike!
“Artists throughout Westchester County are hurting,” reads ArtsWestchester’s sincere call to action. “Nationally, the COVID-19 outbreak has dealt a $3.2 billion blow to America’s nonprofit arts sector as of mid-March* and much of these devastating losses are trickling down to our creative practitioners.”
This is a serious concern, knowing how much Westchester’s arts and entertainment scene contributes to our economy. But artists throughout Westchester are struggling to meet rent obligations, purchase food, and fund medical expenses. That’s why the White Plains based art foundation is asking Westchester to donate to their Artist Relief Fund.
The ArtsWestchester Artist Relief Fund will award grants of $500 to individual artists who live or work in Westchester and whose creative practices and incomes have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The application process for artists will open on May, 1, 2020 and continue on a rolling basis.
Current Spirits, the new distillery from the Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., recently ramped up production, but not on booze. Distilling the CL beer they had on hand to over 190 proof, the team is forgoing turning that into vodka in favor of something a little bit more timely: hand sanitizer. A large portion will be donated directly to health workers and facilities, while a small amount will be sold retail through grocers like DeCicco & Sons.
Kings Capital Construction in Tarrytown recently donated more than 40,000 pounds of food — nearly 1,600 boxes of fresh, healthy produce — and distributed them to Westchester residents from White Plains’ Ebersole Ice Rink in conjunction with the White Plains Youth Bureau.
Westchester County is making a big move to help combat local food insecurity, dedicating $3 million in federal CARES Act funding for the newly created Westchester Food Security Initiative to provide to local food pantries, restaurants, and delivery programs. The county estimates that while roughly 20% of county residents were food insecure prior to the pandemic outbreak, that number has since doubled to 40% or two out of every five people.
Peekskill has just launched a new program, CSA Is a SNAP to help SNAP benefit recipients gain access to fresh produce from local farmers. The program creates a rotating loan fund to pay farmers within the Hudson Valley CSA Coalition their upfront seasonal fees for community supported agriculture boxes, who can then sell them weekly at the HRHCare Jeannette J. Phillips Health Center on Main St. The boxes will be sold at a discount to SNAP recipients, at just $20 on a first-come basis.
Meanwhile, Friends of Karen also just received a $20,000 grant from the county to help continue funding its mission to help critically ill children and their families.
In Yonkers, United Way of Westchester and Putnam Counties has donated 150 twin size Tempur-pedic mattresses to WestHab‘s transitional housing program, providing living space to locals when they need it most.
To help feed Westchester, the Westchester County Foundation just awarded a grant of $32,000 to Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center to help purchase badly needed supplies and hire a volunteer coordinator. The new position will also coordinate backyard farmers to hungry locals to get surplus foods to those who can use them.
Edge on Hudson recently partnered with DeCicco & Sons to deliver 6,000 grocery items to feed more that 300 local families through The Community Food Pantry of Tarrytown & Sleepy Hollow.
Westchester Land Trust and InterGenerate have teamed up with a private landowner in Bedford to use his land and gardens to grow food for hungry local families.
NBC 4 New York/WNBC and Telemundo 47/WNJU is helping support nine food banks in the TriState area, including Feeding Westchester, through their “Feeding Our Families” online donation drive that runs through May 31. To help feed those in need, visit the initiatives at WNBC’s Feeding our Families or WNJU’s Alimentando a Nuestras Familias.
Need a good book? Local authors from Twitter’s #WritingCommunity are hosting an online fundraiser to benefit Feeding Westchester where a $20 donation gets you access to digital editions of eleven of their books, with higher tier rewards including video sessions with several of the members on everything from the craft of storytelling to how to manage your blog and so on.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano celebrated his birthday on May 1 by delivering 80 meals to St. Joseph’s Medical center from the nearby Zuppa Restaurant and 1,500 jars of tomato sauce from Cucina Antica Foods. (And yes, they sang “Happy Birthday” to him!)
The NYC Mission Society just released shocking numbers that demand at local food banks is up across the state: 40% in Long Island, 100% in NYC, and a staggering 200% in Westchester County.
New Rochelle’s own I Got the Juice is accepting donations to help buy fresh fruits and veggies that it will then distribute to local residents impacted by the pandemic on Saturday, May 2.
For yet another week in a row, Chappaqua’s Ibiza Kitchen is feeding anyone who’s hungry, no questions asked. So far they’ve given out more than a 300 hot meals, like roasted pork and carrots with mashed potatoes, and chicken with rice and peas. They’ll be slinging even more again this Friday, starting at 4 p.m.
VIP Country Club in New Rochelle has also joined in the effort, partnering with New Rochelle Community Action Partnership to provide more than 500 sandwiches every week to those in need. Distribution is currently every Wednesday and Friday.
Meanwhile the City of New Rochelle itself is partnering with RXR Realty and L+M Development Partners with a new program called NourishAll. The “New Rochelle” soundalike takes individual and corporate donations and distributes gift cards for 20 hard-hit local restaurants to more than 1,000 local residents across 10 social agencies.
New York Hospitality Group in White Plains has been serving up more that 700 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners daily — along with healthy snacks and even groceries — for staff at New York Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital and White Plains Hospital.
Three local students from Westchester’ Leffell School have begun a project 3D printing “ear saver” devices for medical staff to protect them from pain and injury due to long-term mask use. They’re already donated around 4,000 and are hoping to reach even more. You can check out their Facebook page or reach out to them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alexandra Ferguson, based in New Rochelle, has pivoted from pillow production to fashioning special buttoned headbands that allow medical workers to wear N95 and surgical masks for hours on end without hurting the tender skin behind their ears. The company has raised over $9,000 to date and donated over 1,4000 headbands to local hospitals and childhood allergy nonprofit Red Sneakers for Oakley. You can donate to the process here.
Feeling like something a little more for the runway? Local online boutique Be YOUnique, known for its upcycled designer products, is creating face masks featuring brands like Gucci, Fendi, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and more. Not only does it keep you safe and looking stylish, but it keeps discarded handbags — that someone paid a pretty penny for — out of landfills.
Speaking of Louis Vuitton, the fashion brand just donated 1,000 non-surgical face masks to Westchester Medical Center!
Wellpath recently made a donation of surgical masks to the Westchester County Department of Corrections, to help protect staff and residents in Westchester’s penal system.
The Greater New York Automotive Dealers Association has donated 50,000 masks to Westchester’s front line workers.
Hanes Brands Inc. has also donated thousands of reusable masks that County Executive George Latimer has been delivering to municipalities throughout Westchester. So far the C.E. has dropped off thousands of masks in Mount Vernon, Port Chester, Peekskill, Ossining, Pleasanvtille and Mount Pleasant, Greenburgh, Yorktown, and now Mount Kisco and New Rochelle.
Private jet company Million Air pitched in as CEO Roger Woolsey flew into Westchester County airport, bringing with his planes 8,000 3-ply surgical masks and 1,100 N95 masks to donate to White Plains Hospital.
In Yonkers, popular community activist Hector “The Connector” Santiago dropped by St. Joseph’s Medical Center with 100 reusable mask straps to alleviate staff’s discomfort from wearing elastic bands over their ears for hours on end.
Spry Therapeutics, owned by local brothers Bill and Bob Purdy, develop bacteria and virus-resistant pillows for hospitals and, since the outset of COVID-19, have donated 10,000 units of their product to local hospitals and those across the country.
Automated Marking Inc. in Armonk is working with medical suppliers and manufacturers, among others, to improve supply chains and actually extend the shelf life of critically needed products.
Students and faculty from Iona Prep in New Rochelle generously donated to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, which has quickly become due to population the locale with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the county. Donations included 1,000 nitrile gloves, 200 plastic bibs, 30 sets of safety goggles, and 2,500 personal bottles of hand sanitizer, plus more than 75 pounds of food.
Mamaroneck’s Statewide Abstract Insurance has so far donated more than 7,000 masks and other PPE items to Westchester County police departments.
Previous Best of Westchester winners Party Line Rentals has switched from setting up party tents to medical tents at COVID-19 testing sites, aiding the government in tracking and minimizing the spread of this disease.
Manhattanville College‘s visiting Assistant Professor Justin Capalbo, the son of a nurse currently caring for COVID-19 patients, found a novel approach to helping out healthcare workers by 3D printing components for more than 50 face shields with the campus’ maker facilities. He’s also organized the donation of about 600 autoclave bags for biohazard waste disposal, 1,000 nitrile gloves, 100 dispsable aprons, 30 N95 masks, and 100 bouffant caps.
Women’s groups at the Wartburg senior care facility in Mount Vernon have likewise been sewing protective masks for direct care workers and essential staffers interacting with COVID-19 patients.
Even “man’s best friend” is getting in on the giving, as The Animal Specialty Center of Yonkers donated N95 masks, gowns and other PPEs, and even three desperately needed ventilators to St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
The National Guard Troop Bravo Company Joint Task Force Two held a surprise ceremony to honor the more than 50 Westchester Medical Center Health Network employees they worked with to establish temporary COVID-19 testing facilities at Westchester County Center. Viral and antibody testing has recently moved to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla and WCMHealth’s other locations, but since the onset of the outbreak the temporary facility helped test over 16,000 samples.
New Rochelle Resident Esther Vacca just donated over $15,000 in local restaurant gift cards to the staff at Montefiore, having raised the money selling “Straight Outta the Hot Zone” t-shirts in the wake of the initial New Rochelle outbreak. The fundraiser helps feed hundreds of local workers, while supporting 35 area restaurants.
Local jewelry maker Anne Koplik Designs — provider of some stunning pieces to Dancing With the Stars — has partnered with with the American Lung Association to design a signature collection of turquoise Swarovski crystal pieces. Each comes with a “Make each breath count” card and donates 20% of each sale to the ALA’s COVID-19 Action Initiative LUNG FORCE.
The Bedford Playhouse showed they cared this week by dropping off sealed bags of movie popcorn to staff at local hospitals, fire stations, and even pharmacies.
Produce Partners has donated more than 5 tons of fresh fruits and veggies to the staff at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in 650 produce boxes, designed to feed a family of four for up to a week. (That’s 10 to 12lbs of food in each box!)
White Plain Pinsa purveyor Papí has delivered more than 1,000 meals to local police departments, firehouses, and hospitals. Additionally, diners have the option of rounding up their total to the nearest dollar as a donation to Feeding Westchester.
Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson, covering 1,800+ troops throughout Westchester and the Hudson Valley, is making sure that you can get your sugar fix and give it too. Simply find your preferred local troop’s Virtual Cookie Booth and you can purchase your favorite cookies for yourself or choose to have them delivered to local people, food banks, hospitals, etc.
Fused Fitness in Jefferson Valley is helping out on behalf of some of their members who are nurses, providing fruit and salad baskets, sandwiches, and pizza to area hospitals.
Plenty of locals are doing their part to support others on the front lines of this disease. Support Westchester COVID Local is a Facebook group dedicated to getting food delivered to local hospitals in these trying times.
Sacred Seeds has just launched a line of Self-Care Kits and Wellness Baskets on its website, but the first locals to get to enjoy them are the staff at St. John’s Riverside Hospital, St. Joseph’s Medical Center, and Empress Ambulance, who are all receiving donation bundles. (White Plains Hospital and Westchester Medical Center are next on the list!)
A few residents you might have heard of, Bill and Hillary Clinton, chipped in as well, sending pizzas to the staff at multiple Westchester hospitals this week, including Blythedale Children’s Hospital!
Two local women, Aubrey Graf-Daniels and Melissa Tomlin, started asking their friends for $20 donations and eventually raised thousands of dollars to buy lunch from local struggling restaurants and provide them to healthcare workers. In their first delivery, more than a hundred meals worth of tacos from Cantina Taco and Tequila Bar fed the delighted crew at White Plains Hospital this week.
Meanwhile, the Junior League of Bronxville delivered 32 trays of fresh-baked cookies to the staff at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers!
If you’re looking for ways to help out yourselves, Food for the Front Line in Westchester is raising money through a GoFundMe page to purchase lunch for three different local hospitals from Westchester’s restaurant community. Likewise, Front Line Appreciation Group FLAG Westchester has already raised more than $11,000 to do the same, and are aiming for $15,000 as their next goalpost.
Pelham Cares: Neighbor to Neighbor has raised more than $30,000 in just 48 hours to purchase food from local local restaurants to be delivered to healthcare workers.There first delivery supplied more than 550 meals to hospitals in New Rochelle, Bronxville, and the Bronx.
The Science Barge from Groundwork Hudson Valley in Yonkers is chipping in in it’s own way, now that guests can’t visit in person. In addition to offering online resources and programming, the barge will be transitioning from growing many different fruits and vegetables in small batches for educational use in its aquaponic, hydroponic, and aeroponic systems to larger quantities of greens, cucumbers, and tomatoes. In addition to being organic, pesticide free, and faster to grow than in traditional soil planters, this produce was specifically selected as harder to come by in Yonkers, meaning food insecure local residents will still be able to get their daily nutrients.
The Acceleration Project, the woman-founded and led consulting firm, has been offering free emergency services to local entrepreneurs, including assistance in applying for loans, cash flow management in times of crisis, and “Adapt and Evolve” brainstorming sessions.
EMC Frontline Pregnancy Centers and Wrap for a Cause collected more than 267,000 diapers in Yonkers for distribution to 30 different pregnancy centers throughout Westchester, Rockland, and Fairfield counties and NYC for use by social service organizations
The Community Center of Northern Westchester has put its clothing distribution and educational classes/workshops to redouble efforts on supporting local families already and suddenly in need of its food distribution services. Last month the group served to more than a thousand families, including 80 new ones. The CCNW’s food pantry is currently handing out pre-bagged food from their back entrance, providing fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and eggs, and canned and dry goods as well as toiletries, child and adult diapers, feminine hygiene products, and more.
The group is also still accepting donations, especially canned and non-perishable foods and toiletries like the above items and reusable bags for distribution.
With help from the National Guard, local combatant of food insecurity Feeding Westchester managed to package the first of 5,000 bags of shelf-stable food — plus an additional 4,000 breakfast bags — last week, for delivery to New Rochelle families of students who rely on schools’ free and reduced meal plans for basic nutrition.
“As Westchester’s leading nonprofit hunger-relief organization, we are anticipating greater need in New Rochelle and across the county,” says VP of Development Matt Honeycutt. “We are bringing in additional resources, including from Feeding America and other partners. We are looking into how we can get ahead of this proactively by getting food into people’s homes now.”
Feeding Westchester also got much needed boosts from Nordstrom, plus the MetLife Foundation, which donated $200,000 to the organization. Yogurt giant Chobani also donated 35,000 yogurt, dairy creamer, and oat beverage products to the city to help families who typically rely on free and reduced meal plan services in schools to provide their children with the recommended daily nutrition.
Former 914INC. Wunderkind Daniel Bonnet is also working with the guard to clean buildings and prepare emergency food and supplies in New Rochelle. Bonnet is currently about halfway to the goal of raising $20,000 for New Rochelle Community Action Program (CAP), a part of the Westchester Community Opportunity Program.
“We’ve just set up a GoFundMe account that has agreed to eliminate all fees, so that donations will go directly to WestCOP to support the continued buying of foods,” he says.
Family Services of Westchester also provided a record-breaking 1,000 mental health therapy sessions this week (by telephone and video chat, of course) to provide help to so many people now coping with increased stress and exacerbated conditions.The groups certified preschool teachers are also providing childcare for health workers and first responders in White Plains, while the FSW’s RideConnect program is transporting seniors to essential medical appointments, and even grocery shopping and medication delivery. They’ve even released $2,500 in grocery gift cards! Click here for volunteer info.
Volunteer New York! just established a Virtual Volunteer Center so Westchesterites can find all the different local COVID-19 related relief opportunities. The local nonprofit has also teamed up with Points of Light, George Bush Sr.’s volunteer foundation, to mark April as the first ever “Global Volunteer Month” with even more local opportunities.
Bestselling author and former New Rochelle resident Emily Liebert is donating copies of her new book Pretty Revenge to more than 100 families in New Rochelle’s containment zone.
“My husband and I lived in New Rochelle for over 10 years. We had both of our sons during that time and raised them as babies in that wonderful community,” Liebert says. “My hope is that my book offers a much-needed escape and that the time spent reading will make the isolation of quarantine more enjoyable.”
Anyone looking to request copies or get involved can contact Liebert or her publicist Kathleen Carter through the link above.
Meanwhile, Bronxville native and Sara Lawrence writing professor Eileen Moskowitz-Palma is hosting an online writing camp for kids over Zoom. Anyone who pre-orders her new book, Camp Clique gets to join. Email for more info.
When adults are worrying about how to shift an entire state and nation’s economy to telecommuting and keeping the suddenly unemployed fed, it’s sadly easy to forget to take time for our youngest residents.
Latimer, thankfully, is taking a precious few minutes of potential shuteye in what has to be a pretty sleepless week to read storybooks to help calm down and set everyone at ease.
Bummed you didn’t get to see your kids perform in the school musical? Brewster’s Spotlight Arts is hosting a virtual cabaret with local high schools to help them showcase all the hard work students put into plays that sadly had to be canceled. Check out their website to see how you can get your kids’ schools involved!
If you just want to listen to something fun, Fox Lane Middle School students’ rock ensemble worked together to craft a collaborative performance of “Seven Bridges Road” accompanied by their teacher Matt Vanacoro. Students filmed the entire thing from their mobile devices and created a supercut to be proud of. Check out the whole thing below!
Meanwhile, Greeley’s Madrigal Choir from Chappaqua has covered “Take Me Home” by Pentatonix:
Blythedale Children’s Hospital has developed its own telehealth programs to continue helping over 150 local children receive their speech, occupational, physical, and specialized feeding therapies, all from home.
This week Westchester reopened more than 30 school locations to serve as childcare facilities for those who are right now some of the most important workers continuing to go out each day. Kids are checked for fever and flu-like symptoms at drop-off and kept in groups of no more than 12 while practicing social distancing. Care is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Full details and locations can be found here.
Much as people like to joke about how often the WiFi goes out or how long it takes to get someone to come by and read the meter, ConEdison has our backs right now.
The regional utility company emailed customers this week to let them know no services will be shut off during this period for non-payment, late fees would be waived, as would no-access fees for unreadable meters, credit or debit card fees, and fees for refusing smart meters. Payment extensions can even be arranged online.
Locally headquartered global brands Pepsi and MasterCard recently unveiled their community partnership, Westchester Strong with Healthcare Heroes. Th program launched with a $1 million two-year fund to help get increased vital resources and capacity to White Plains Hospital. Morgan Stanley has already contributed an additional $100,000 to the hospital in joining the partnership.
After investing so much in Westchester and New Rochelle in particular, RXR Realty has committed $1 million in relief funding to various local organizations. Upfront, the company is earmarking $50,000 each for WestCOP and HOPE Community Services, plus $8,000 to The Guidance Center of Westchester.
RXR has also launched RXRVolunteers where professionals can be paired up with local nonprofits in need of their skills to weather the current economic storm.
Credit Suisse in Yonkers also just donated 60,000 masks to the nearby St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
Up north in Peekskill, Bantam Tools is donating their desktop tool milling machines to those working on creating COVID-19 parts and innovative solutions. Click the link to submit a request today. The company is also holding weekly “Engineering From Home” livestreams to talk tech with makers, engineers, and other fabricators.
In the wake of so many concerts and art events being canceled, it’s nice to see one added to our calendar. Country music star and Yorktown resident Jessica Lynn held the first of what is hoped to be a series of intimate Living Room Concerts on Saturday, March 21 and is continuing to add dates periodically.
Hoping the raise awareness for artists whose income streams are effectively put on hold by coronavirus, the sessions also includes a Q&A with Lynn. Check out our weekly activity guide for the latest dates and times.
With the closing of Westchester’s restaurants and other service industry businesses comes the effective layoffs of thousands of local wage workers.
Several leading Westchester industry professionals, including Louie Lanza of multiple Peekskill bars and restaurants, Scott Vaccaro of Captain Lawrence Brewing Co. — which is using its beer production tools to instead churn out upwards of 1,000 gallons of soup each day! — Mogan Anthony of Village Hospitality Group, Navjot Aroroa of Chutney Masala, and others, have joined the vision of Chef Erik Korn to pledge their time, money, and resources to shift to producing nutritious and long-lasting soup to as many people as they can, starting first with their own industry workers now left hanging by the economic shutdown. See how you can help online.