Y Story: Caring for Residents in the COVID-19 Epicenter

By: Glenn MacAfee | Thursday, June 11, 2020 | Social Responsibility

A resident at the Greater Bergen County YMCA cleans the building.

The Greater Bergen County YMCA, a branch of the Metro YMCA of the Oranges, has been providing long-term low cost housing for men for over 90 years. 

This community of men have weathered a number of storms during their stay with us including a nine-day shutdown with no electric or hot water during Superstorm Sandy and a broken pipe in 2016 that forced the Y to relocate them for a week while the Y undertook significant repairs to all four floors of building. All of this paled in comparison to the challenges we faced when Bergen County became the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in NJ. The challenge was how we could possibly be able to keep 30 residents, many who are high risk, in a facility with close living quarters and shared bathrooms safe and ensure we did not become a hot spot as so many housing and assisted living programs have unfortunately become over the last nine weeks. Shortages of clean supplies, significant reductions in our cleaning company’s ability to keep our facility clean and sanitized, a need to educate our residents and staff on the safety precautions needed to keep everyone safe and the importance of having both residents and staff work together as a team were just some of the issues we, like many others, face.  

Each of these challenges have been met through the amazing efforts of our team which includes not just our desk and overnight staff who manage their own fear of the virus to show up so that we can ensure 24/7 support for our residents, our Facility Director, Kenny, who not only was able to find the cleaning supplies we needed but personally cleaned and disinfected the stairs, hallways and bathrooms multiple time each day. The Hackensack Health Department nurses Michelle and Shelly, who stayed in constant contact with us providing support and assistance in developing our emergency plans but also residents like Jimmy and Pete who took it upon themselves to check up on their neighbors, encouraging all to follow our safety measures, organize food medication runs and join staff in cleaning and sanitizing the facility daily.

Thanks to the coordinated efforts of this team we have been able to keep our vulnerable population of residents, many with significantly compromising health issues, safe and healthy even while residing in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in NJ.

-The author is Executive Director of the Greater Bergen County YMCA.


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