The nationwide guidelines to help combat the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic sweeping the city, nation and the world has led to the closure of schools, businesses and churches across East Boston.
Many nonprofits here that serve thousands of school-age children when school is out or provide free services to the homeless have had to make the tough decision to close amid fears of spreading the virus.
In Eastie the Salesian Boys & Girls Club, East Boston Social Centers, the East Boston YMCA (see exception below) and the neighborhood’s BCYF Community Centers, as well as the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen, are all closed until further notice.
“Unfortunately, for the time being, this is the safest way to handle the situation,” said Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Michael Triant. “We had a cleaning company in to disinfect the entire building.
Our staff was in as Monday to continue to disinfect all equipment and supplies. On Tuesday we will work with our friends at the YMCA to serve as a host feeding site. Breakfast and lunch will be available for pick up from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the front steps of the club. Please, everyone be smart and limit your contact with others during this time.”
Triant shared a photo of a worker from CM General Services in a full hazmat suit spraying down the walls of the club on Byron Street over the weekend. The company sanitized over 30,000 square feet of the Boys & Girls Club building using the Clorox total 360 system.
“However, our club will remain closed for members and parents,” said Traint. “We will have essential staff on site to answer any and all questions our parents may have.”
At Zumix, Executive Director Madeleine Steczynski said the decision to close was out of an abundance of caution to protect the health of students, staff, community members, and all of Zumix families.
Steczynski said Zumix will be closed through at least March 27 and then reevaluate the situation as the pandemic unfolds.
“We will continue to monitor the quickly evolving situation and re-evaluate this decision every week,” said Steczynski. We have taken this proactive step to support Federal, State and local efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. We want to be overly cautious given the high level of uncertainty about the spread of the virus.”
While there is no known case of COVID-19 within the ZUMIX community, the closing will help the community’s response to the virus and support the “social distancing” that is necessary to slow the spread of the virus at this critical stage.
“All public and private events to be held at Zumix will not occur during the closure,” said Steczynski. “It is important to distinguish that, while we are closing the building, Zumix staff will continue to work remotely on future program development, fundraising, project work, and ways to stay deeply connected to our students and communities and help them through this crisis. These steps will ensure that students, radio hosts and community members can return to Zumix knowing that our priority is that everyone has a joyful experience when they return.”
Steczynski said Zumix staff will update any changes on its website, along with social media channels.
Social Centers Executive Director Justin Pasquariello and East Boston YMCA Executive Director Joe Gaeta, whose agencies provide day care and after-school programs like the Boys & Girls Club and Zumix, also announced over the weekend they would close.
“All East Boston Social Centers locations will be closed and suspending all child care, teen and adult programs effective Tuesday, March 17 until further notice,” said Pasquareillo in a statement. “We encourage all families who can do so to keep their children home and take the appropriate precautions to avoid the spread of the virus. We are committed to supporting our community in this challenging time.”
Pasquariello reminded the community in these uncertain times of the Social Centers’ motto, “When we all give, We all gain.”
However, the Eastie YMCA will remain open for food distribution and “essential childcare” services. These services are limited to parents who will be on the frontlines combating the virus.
YMCA President and CEO James Morton said the YMCA will encourage families to keep their children at home, but for those parents who are first-responders and “essential” employees who must work, the Y will provide a safe and nurturing place for their children.
“Thousands of parents depend upon us for early education and before and after-school care. For these families, the services we offer are essential,” he said.
Over at the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen (EBCSK) the volunteer staff there said they made the difficult decision to suspend their weekly soup kitchen operations that help feed the homeless and low-income families in Eastie.
“The EBCSK Leadership Team, in consultation with public officials and fellow service providers, made the difficult decision to suspend weekly soup kitchen operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said EBCSK in a statement. “We believe everyone deserves a warm meal, safe shelter, and supportive community. But the health and safety of our guests and volunteers is our first priority. This decision was not made lightly. As you may know, this is the first time we have closed in more than [three] years of service to the community. Given that COVID-19 is spread through close person-to-person contact, we recognize the potential risk to vulnerable guests and volunteers who convene in our close-knit space over shared meals, and we are exercising an abundance of caution in closing to protect the well-being of our community.”
The volunteer staff are working diligently to identify alternatives for EBCSK guests who have come to rely on the soup kitchen’s services.
“In lieu of typical donations, we ask that our community members donate gift cards (valued at $10 each) to local restaurants for our soup kitchen guests who are in need of a hot meal,” they said.
Donations can be sent to East Boston Community Soup Kitchen, P.O. BOX 497 East Boston, MA 02128, or East Boston Community Soup Kitchen, 32 Paris St., East Boston, MA 02128.