Chinatown activist and Chairman of Homecrest Community Services (HCS) Don Lee, is leading an initiative to provide food to homebound Chinese seniors with a team of volunteers and closed Chinese restaurants.
As a win-win for restaurant staff desperate for work and for seniors, Lee revealed to NextShark that the idea for the Stir-Fry Meals on Wheels happened when the city closed all senior centers due to COVID-19 last Monday. At the same time, restaurants reached out to him to ask for support.
“The solution was simple,” he said. “If the customers cannot go to the restaurants, bring the restaurant to the customers — the seniors who have been asked to stay at home.”
Lee expressed that COVID-19 and the quarantine is an “unprecedented crisis.”
“Self-quarantine is a key part of the solution,” he said.
However, the most important question he wanted us to answer is, “How are people going to eat?”
A traditional soup kitchen would not work with the quarantine in effect, so he sought to enlist the help of small, local restaurants and individuals who know the community, with proper training in food safety.
Young wrote about the notable cause, but unfortunately mentioned their lack of funding. Lee is struggling to gain financial support from city officials, only receiving partial funding in return.
With the initiative starting two weeks ago, Young stated, “Don is in desperate need of funds to keep this going and to hopefully expand it beyond the one center he is helping.”
Support for Lee and his volunteers have come pouring in, with Young’s post liked over 2,700 times and shared over 1, 800 times.
As Lee pointed out, a restaurant in Bensonhurst called Win Parkway, is currently providing them with daily meals. However, as the program expands to other neighborhoods, the goal is to work with more local restaurants and get more volunteers for delivery support, namely, people with cars or bikes and runners.
Some have taken to Twitter to give it a shout out as well.
In Brooklyn : Staff and volunteers at Homecrest Senior center readying hot meals cooked by local restaurants, to be delivered to home bound seniors. CITY funding, where are you??!! #Covid_19 #homebound @NYCMayor @NYCSpeakerCoJo @CM_MargaretChin , chair of committee for the aging pic.twitter.com/E392lqK7M2
— Neighbors United Below Canal (@NUBCanal) March 21, 2020
@HCS_Homecrest is looking for volunteers to deliver hot meals to seniors. 🚗🚗🚗
Many of our seniors are food insecure and cannot go a day without a hot meal. If you are interested in volunteering, please reach out to Karen at [email protected]
— Senator Andrew Gounardes (@Sen_Gounardes) March 17, 2020
One of Lee’s volunteers, Eric Tien, an avid activist himself, chanced on the cause when he was in need of the community service hours.
Tien gave an inside look at the operation, revealing that most of the elders they serve are from Hong Kong and speak Cantonese. He understands Mandarin, so while there is a small language barrier, it doesn’t affect him.
“Everyone smiles in the same language,” he said. “The seniors wave and bow in gratitude whenever they see us, and their happiness is infectious.”
He praised the cause saying, “We’re just doing what needs to be done. The seniors need to stay home, protect themselves from the virus, and we need to make sure they can eat.”
“Serving Asian immigrants seniors to me is not giving back but paying back. We owe it to them, for they have helped build our community and our country,” Don added. “They are the trailblazers that embody the true American spirit – Taking risks for the betterment of the next generation, always believing the best is yet to come.”
For anyone who wants to support their cause, you can donate on their GoFundMe page, the Homecrest Community Service center website, write a check to Homecrest Community Service, Inc and mail it to 1415 Avenue T, Brooklyn, NY 11229. It’s a 501 (C) (3) and all contributions are tax-deductible.
“ALL proceeds will be used for purchasing meals for stay at home seniors during this self-quarantine period — reopening local independent restaurants and the food supply chain, one neighbor at a time,” Lee closed.