These months have been incredibly hard on everyone. Though we were willing to do what was necessary to protect our staff, volunteers, and community members, it was incredibly hard to close our doors and adjust our youth programs to be in compliance with the regulations set for COVID-19.
Now that we’ve pushed through the last three months of adjusted programs, we wanted to take the time to thank our amazing team, volunteers, and community members who have stepped up to continue our community outreach efforts in the following ways.
“At the beginning of the shut down, we made a list of vulnerable adults and have checked on them every single week,” our Operations Director Bethany says. “Even if they don’t need anything, they just appreciate someone checking on them, talking to them, and praying with them.” Ciudad Nueva’s staff worked hard before the pandemic to foster these deep relationships and was unwilling to give them up even though they couldn’t see our community members face-to-face.
Alma, our Food Co-op Manager, has been working hard to specifically connect with the elderly members of the community, which has ignited a passion throughout Ciudad Nueva to expand services to focus on elderly community members both now and in the future. (More information on this exciting new development will come soon!) Claudia Chaves provided an art class for the elderly pre-pandemic, and she moved out of her comfort zone to check on her class members because of the deep relationships they had formed.
Ciudad Nueva is continuing to rise to the challenge of continuing community outreach without putting the community in harm’s way of the virus. Bethany said, “We’ve been asking ourselves, ‘How can we continue to see the people that we can’t really see because of COVID-19?’ We’ve talked about prayer walking and praying over specific houses and ideas like that which allow us to stay connected without risking exposure.”
Just like our other programs, our food bank has had to adjust to the impact of COVID-19. Before, our Co-op served as a safe place to create meaningful relationships with people in the community while eliminating food waste. Now, we had to remove in-person contact and move to a staff and limited volunteer model for picking up food, and pickups could only be curbside without anyone going in the building.
“The community stepped up to help pick up food and deliver it when we couldn’t make all the deliveries on our own,” Tamy, our LaunchPad Director, said. “It’s a blessing, because we really try really hard to help our community and we were forced to stop. It was so amazing to see the community working hand-in-hand with us to meet needs and continue serving even when it was scary for the community as well.” Bethany said, “the Co-op has been an amazing way to continue to eliminate food waste, bring food to people, and pray for people through these adjustments.”
Ciudad Nueva’s food resources have also changed. We’ve been diligent about finding new food resources so we can continue to provide this essential community outreach service. Ciudad Nueva is still getting food from product places with food that would otherwise be discarded, but we’ve also been able to connect with local ministry and a non-profit that have provided food during this time.
Bethany continues, “Now, our reach has actually expanded so that we’ve been able to donate food to others! Some donations, like 50+ heads of lettuce for example, are going to go bad before we can deliver them, so we’ve been blessed to give them to homeless shelters so that the fresh food doesn’t go to waste.”
After School Program:
“This time has been really hard,” Tamy said. “For the after school program every year, we print out a yearbook. The picture on the cover was the last time we were all together. We had a sleepover in a gymnasium where we stayed up and watched movies, snacks, and in-person community bonding. It’s been hard to not be able to do that right now, especially with our kids that are graduating to new programs.”
Team members and volunteers at Ciudad Nueva have stepped up to the technological challenge of connecting with our kids and youth remotely, even when it’s outside of their comfort zone. “We also started adding crafts with the food deliveries so that kids could stay busy and do encouraging things for their neighbors,” Tamy continues. “We could do a craft on YouTube or Instagram and then give kids all the supplies to do it as well and post pictures for us.”
Tamy also came up with community outreach projects like Chalk the Walk where Ciudad Nueva’s kids would write encouraging messages like “You’re not alone” and “We’ll get through this together!” all over the neighborhood sidewalks.
Nine kids graduated from Ciudad Nueva’s children’s program, and since we couldn’t have our usual ceremony, we did a car ceremony and gave everyone personalized gifts, candy, and the yearbook. Each child’s mentor came to each drive-through ceremony and gave really personal gifts that meant something to the kids because of their strong relationship. Drew, our Kids Create Program Assistant, even created personalized invitations to Kids Create for the fall. “This is what Ciudad Nueva is,” Tamy says. “We take care of our kids and our families so that they have ownership and belonging.”
It’s because of your ongoing support that we can continue to build these relationships with our community members even in the midst of a pandemic. If you want to find out how you can help Ciudad Nueva in this season, view our COVID Updates.
Ciudad Nueva is a community-based nonprofit that exists to advance the renewal and development of central El Paso’s Rio Grande neighborhood through the empowerment and transformation of its residents. Please join us this year! Call us today at 915-521-2951 or contact us online.