East Side House
Harvest To Haven: A Story of the Power of People

Since 1891, East Side House has been a beacon of hope for people in need. Deeply rooted in the communities they serve, East Side House keeps a finger on the pulse of the needs of their constituents. This has remained true as we all navigated this pandemic together.

It is no secret that New York City—and in particular the Bronx—was among the first in the nation to face the wrath of COVID-19. The world watched as we grappled with school closings, impaired or shut-down businesses, and the affliction of thousands of family members, neighbors, and colleagues.

Within a week after schools closed, East Side House was quick to provide emergency services by conducting needs assessments of the families they serve. Most revealing in those early days was the overwhelming need for food. Local food banks were being overwhelmed by demand and were forced to turn families away empty handed, leaving them to wonder where they would find their next meal.

Daniel Diaz, Executive Director of East Side House, shared this concern with Eric Wittenberg, a long-time supporter of East Side House and a Co-Chair of our annual Gala Preview of the New York International Auto Show. Wittenberg reached out to his circle of colleagues and friends. Serendipitously, the group had seen a segment on ABC News about farmers who were forced to destroy their crops due to the fall off of restaurants, stadiums, and schools.

These friends banned together, creating a group called Farms to Food Banks. The group tapped every resource they knew to get food to East Side House families. Within days, they had arranged for 43,000 pounds of potatoes to be shipped to the South Bronx from Cranney Farms in Oakley, Idaho, in a donated truck driven by a U.S. Army veteran. In the Bronx, East Side House staff members then rolled up their sleeves to bag, box, and distribute the potatoes and other pantry items. That week, 2,500 people were fed, and East Side House’s Harvest to Haven program was born. Today, East Side House has ramped up services to feed over 5000 people per week and now delivers prepared meals to over 900 homebound senior citizens.

Meet The Riveras:
Learn how your gift can change the life of a family

Ms. Rivera is a single mother of two sons, the youngest of which is enrolled in East Side House’s community literacy program. Each day, Ms. Rivera would drop her son off at East Side House and proceed on to go to her job as a food worker at a local distribution center.

However, as an essential worker, Ms. Rivera was exposed to COVID-19 and tested positive early in the pandemic. She became incredibly sick and spent nearly two months in the Intensive Care Unit of the local hospital, during which time she was not only lost income, but also learned that she was pregnant.

While she was in the hospital, her boyfriend cared for her children, but he left the family soon after she returned home. Ms. Rivera became increasingly destressed about keeping her family safe, fed, and learning. She felt alone and scared.

One day, she received a call from an East Side House staff person who was conducting wellness check-ins for the families enrolled in their program. Ms. Rivera shared with the trusted staff person that she was struggling and didn’t know which way to turn. East Side House quickly stepped in, providing weekly pantry boxes directly to the home, connecting Ms. Alejandro with social services to help cope with her the trauma of having COVID-19, legal assistance for an impending eviction, and helped set up her sons with technology to patriciate in East Side House’s daily lessons.

With this help, Ms. Rivera was able to return to work and has been able to slowly regain her family’s stability. The Riveras are grateful to be healthy and to have the chance to heal together, and are very excited to soon be welcoming a new member of the family. When asked about her experience in working with East Side House through this difficult time, she said:

“I honestly would have been lost without the help and support, my children would have been removed if you would not have provided the food and services we needed.”

Learn More at eastsidehouse.org