Community Coming Together To Help Those In Need

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Samy Ghatan, a volunteer, delivers groceries. (Photo courtesy of Shira Balakhaneh)

Since New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of Emergency to control the spread of COVID-19 in New York on March 4, senior citizens and those with underlying medical conditions began to face serious issues with receiving their essential necessities.
On March 15, a free delivery service of groceries, laundry and medicine in Great Neck was rolled out for individuals 65 years old and above, as well as the immunosuppressed.

The idea started with Dr. Babak Balakhaneh. Given his hectic schedule, his sister Shira Balakhaneh, a teacher at the Bnot Yaakov School, and his cousin Leora Arjang took it over. The duo distributed fliers advertising the service to local synagogues, the Great Neck House and via social media. People who need the service could either join a WhatsApp chat group or call them directly.

“We want to help to flatten the curve,” Shira Balakhaneh said. “The less people leave their houses, the less dangerous the virus is. Through this delivery service, those who can be most harmed won’t need to leave their houses.”

People in the community pitched in to help, and within a day, about 100 volunteers signed up on WhatsApp. The service is currently running from Sunday to Friday, six days a week.
“We’re going to run this service as long as people need it,” Balakhaneh said. “Hopefully, this virus will be gone soon so that we can all go back to our normal lives.”

People throughout Long Island are doing what they can to help those in need. On March 20, Association of Chinese American Physicians (ACAP) launched the ACAP COVID-19 Response Efforts to help those on the front line of fighting the virus in New York. Jericho High School students Jierui Wang and Angela Zhu, and Xingqiao Xu from Beijing 101 High School, winners of the ACAP Science Fair, donated their awards of $1,000 to $2,000 each to purchase personal protective equipment for medical professionals in New York.

Kids in the community are also doing what they can to help as well. Dorey Liu, a third grader from Shelter Rock Elementary School in Manhasset, has been busy repackaging hand sanitizers.

Her parents, Kingsley Liu, a 2019 Great Neck Chinese Association Community Service Award winner, and Linda Shang, a member of ACAP, have been key contributors in several community initiatives to fight COVID-19. Hearing that local stores were running out of hand sanitizers, the family decided to “make” their own Manhasset Association of Chinese Americans (MACA) brand ones. They ordered medical grade hand sanitizer in bulk sizes and repackaged them into 16-ounce bottles using an appealing label designed by a friend.

The family started with distributing the sanitizers to their neighbors in Manhasset. As word got out, their friends donated money to finance the family’s efforts and offered help. The service was extended to residents in Great Neck. Those who need sanitizers can sign up on social media and then go to Mr. Wish Bubble Tea in Great Neck to get a bottle. Together, they have given away more than 200 bottles of hand sanitizers in Manhasset and Great Neck.

“We want to pass on what we have to our neighbors and friends,” Kingsley Liu said. “Helping those in need is something everybody can do.”

—Joy Wei is a seventh grader at Great Neck North Middle Schoolwho likes art and writing.

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