City Island comes together to start grocery shopping and food distribution effort

A sign at Hawkins Park
Courtesy of James Goonan

A small and tight-knit Bronx community has been a shining light amongst all of the doom and gloom.

On City Island, children, seniors, adults, organizations, businesses and politicians have all banded together to fight COVID-19.

City Island Civic Association President Bill Stanton recalled that in mid-March, he spoke with people on the board and discovered many residents were nervous about going to the supermarket.

So, through networking and outreach, various businesses and organizations agreed to partner up and feed the neighborhood. This spawned the creation of City Island Strong.

“It makes us feel good,” Stanton said. “You’re not embarrassed about asking for help. It came to the point where I love my neighbors so much that I told them you’re not leaving, I’m going shopping for you.”

The group posted about City Island Strong on the civic Facebook page and soon began organizing home deliveries in collaboration with the Boy Scout Troop 211 and the American Legion Leonard Hawkins Post 156.

“We’re all trying to keep the restaurants in business,” he said. “It does very much have a village atmosphere, which makes you want to get out and help.”

Lifelong City Island resident and civic member Barbara Dolensek shared that it has been nice to see people of all ages pitch in. Elected officials Councilman Mark Gjonaj and Senator Alessandra Biaggi have also stepped up.

“Over the last several weeks, my team and I have distributed tens of thousands of free meals to nourish our communities in the wake of this crisis,” Biaggi said. “It has been a privilege to partner with local community groups across District 34 to feed our neighbors, and I look forward to continuing this collaborative effort.”

Dolensek told the Bronx Times, this is a place where everybody knows each other, so these actions do not surprise her.

By mid-May, the volunteer effort was going strong, and last week distributed many cooked meals to Island residents, either directly or through local houses of worship. The cooked meals were provided by Island resident Michael Proietti, a chef and by Biaggi and P.S. 175.

By emailing, residents who could not get out could ask for volunteers to shop for them. Boy Scouts picked up meals at P.S. 175 and took them to Pilot Cove, the senior residence. Donations were made to the group by a number of Islanders and local restaurants offered to freeze meals for future deliveries.

Dolensek said she would be remiss not to thank Teri Kurtz, who responds to the City Island Strong emails and assigns tasks, Bill Clancy, treasurer of the group, Peter Del-Debbio, commander of the American Legion Leonard Hawkins Post 156, James Goonan, who is organizing the Boy Scouts, Angelo Bellocchio, who is also a Boy Scout leader, Community Board 10 member Marjorie Velasquez, Michael Proietti, who has been cooking meals and Reverend David Jolley of the Methodist Church.