With the onset of COVID-19, members of the Sri Sathya Sai Center of Jersey City, NJ, found that the current situation, though challenging, has created more opportunities to serve those in need. Since January 2021, Sai Center members have assisted seniors with COVID-19 vaccine registration, starting with seniors in their own center. Members also began identifying other seniors in their neighborhood who needed help with making online and phone appointments for the vaccine. According to the Service Coordinator, “To date, 14 seniors have been registered and successfully vaccinated. We have continued with this service to help seniors schedule vaccine appointments as they become available.”

The center has also begun to distribute non-perishable groceries and winter blankets.  During their usual soup kitchen, held every second Saturday of the month at the Sacred Heart Church, along with lunch consisting of pasta, dinner rolls and fruit, Sai volunteers also give out 50 grocery bags, consisting of cereals, rice packets, pasta and canned food. These groceries help feed people for a week or more and keep them safe by reducing their need to go out and risk exposure to the virus.

There has also been more opportunities for collaboration with local authorities. For instance, the Sai Center reached out to the Mayor of Secaucus, who kindly donated winter wear, including sweaters, jackets, winter hats, and gloves. A local bakery in North Bergen has also been graciously donating 100 dinner rolls every Friday, which are then distributed in multiple service projects. For instance, rolls are part of to-go boxes containing hot pasta, steamed vegetables and bananas which are then distributed to about 60 elderly residents at the Essex Plaza senior apartments in Newark on the first Saturday of every month. The to-go boxes are given out along with other grocery items. Recently, volunteers were also able to distribute winter blankets to the residents.

Additionally, whenever they can, Sai volunteers also give out the remaining dinner rolls along with milk, sugar and toilet supplies to local homeless shelters in Jersey City and Hoboken. The Service Coordinator estimates that since the pandemic, the Sai Center has been serving approximately 120 individuals.