Guest Op-Ed: The City of Everett Perseverance During a Pandemic

By Mayor Carlo DeMaria

The COVID-19 pandemic was unexpected and uninvited. It has affected every resident in some shape or form. As your Mayor, I have been, and will continue to be, committed to providing assistance and resources to help us all, as a community, persevere through these unprecedented times.

On March 14th, we became the first city to shut its doors and began working remotely to serve our residents. Their health and safety have been our highest priority. We have made COVID-19 testing available at numerous sites throughout the city. We have drive-thru sites and walk-up sites all in partnership with the state. Now that flu season is upon us, we are now offering flu shots at no cost at City Hall.

The City Administration has maintained constant communication with the residents of Everett during this time. Each day, we post updated COVID-19 numbers with a thorough breakdown of infection rate by age and gender, number of residents recovered, and how many have unfortunately lost their battle with the virus. As new developments arise, we promptly update our COVID-19 section of the website. Our 3-1-1 call center has remained open, providing direct assistance and guidance to residents since the pandemic broke.

The City of Everett has developed an abundance of fully staffed and functional food programs to help ensure no one goes hungry. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Connolly Center was transformed into a robust food pantry. They have distributed over 768,000 lbs. of food in addition to 1,600 pallets of bread to those in need and on average the center services between 1,500 – 1,800 individuals each week. The center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with 25 volunteers. We are also working with other pantries in the community to accommodate their food requests specific to their clientele and cultures. On October 20th, our schools began providing meals for Everett students and their families.

Our Meals-To-Go program offers a food delivery service that includes delivering meals and groceries to seniors and those who are homebound. On a weekly basis, we are delivering approximately 140 bags of groceries through requests made through 3-1-1, texts, emails, phone calls, and referrals. We are also delivering over 500 meals a day, over 2,500 meals a week, to those who have requested them.

In May, the City teamed up with non-profit organization, Breaktime Café, who created over a dozen restaurant jobs for young adults experiencing homelessness. They have served 9,000 meals to the vulnerable populations throughout Everett. In collaboration with Breaktime Café, we were able to establish a distribution network to get hundreds of meals to Everett residents daily, partnering with LUMA, Eliot Family Resource Center, La Comunidad, and the North Shore Evangelical Church to help facilitate this distribution.

The Bread of Life in Malden also set up a drive-thru food pantry at the Lafayette School in Everett, where they have been feeding an additional 300 families on Thursdays from 3pm-5pm.

The Administration has worked with For Kids Only Afterschool (FKO) to distribute 9,600 snack packs to children in need in the City. These snack packs contain USDA-approved snacks that would last for 7 days and include fruits, granola bars, graham crackers, milk, and yogurt.

In partnership with the World Central Kitchen and Off the Plate, the City of Everett provided 500 meals per week. Through this program, we served 15,000 meals to Everett residents.

Through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) grant, the Office of Human Services has paid over $35,000 in rental, fuel, and utility assistance to those in need since March and there is another $15,000 in aid that is pending. We expect to pay an additional $20,000 in assistance for these services for the year.

With the holiday season fast approaching, our Holiday Assistance program is here to provide help to those in need. Each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we provide meals to approximately 250 families and toys to over 700 children. Due to unprecedented times, we are anticipating an increased demand, and the City of Everett will be here to help. The City of Everett, the Office of Human Services, and other donors provide gift cards for meals and other necessities which are given to those in need. These gift cards are distributed not only during the holiday season, but as needed.

The Council on Aging (COA) has sent out 1,500 letters of well wishes to our seniors. They have also launched “The Fall Fest for Seniors Program” where members on the COA along with members from Cambridge Health Alliance assembled over 100 bags of cheers that were delivered by volunteers to senior housing complexes throughout the City. To brighten their days and provide some sense of “normalcy” to our seniors, the COA will be planning a “Rolling Rally” with good cheer and caroling to these complexes. Additionally, the Office of Human Services is working with the COA to provide 500 rides each month for seniors to and from Doctor and Health Appointments via the Senior Shopping Shuttle. Free Legal Assistance, Meals on Wheels Program, At Home Health Care, Caregiver Support (which includes in-home assessments), home safety programs, Health Benefit Counseling through SHINE, and other programs are also offered by Mystic Valley Elder Services (MVES), with whom the City maintains a close relationship.

The Everett Adult Learning Center has served 120 immigrant students with free English classes. These classes are being taught remotely through ZOOM and Google Classroom.

The City is working with the MBTA to provide “Youth Passes” to eligible college-aged students at a discounted rate of $30.00. We are distributing between 20-25 passes each week.

During these unprecedented times, providing assistance to children and teens is essential. We teamed up with CommCorp during the months of July, August, and September to hire 46 Everett teens to participate in a Virtual Youth Works program. We also worked with the YMCA to hire 6 Everett teens to distribute hot lunches and snacks to residents. Our Summer Food distribution days took place 5 days a week at 5 different sites across the City during the July and August months.

This summer, the City successfully ran the Crimson Kids Program, where we provided 15 Everett teens, each of whom were negatively impacted by COVID-19, an opportunity to help manage and lead the program. In the summer months, 2 Everett youth were given the opportunity to work with Everett Community Growers at the Northern Strand Community Farm (NSCF).

As resilient as our community is, we all need a bit of normalcy. Together, we celebrated Memorial Day, joining together as a community to remember and honor the lives of Everett residents who served our nation. Just outside City Hall, we conducted Everett’s first Pride Flag ceremony in addition to the first Brazilian Flag Raising ceremony, celebrating Brazil’s Independence Day. Halloween will also be safely celebrated with modifications to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Residents will be allowed to go trick-or-treating under strict guidelines, attend a drive-in movie, and decorate a pumpkin at home. We are also planning to celebrate Veterans Day virtually to promote social distancing among our veterans.

As we continue to battle COVID-19 and the challenges that accompany it, I want the residents of Everett to know that I am here for you. I want to sincerely thank you all for coming together as a community and working with one another to fight this virus. Until we have defeated COVID-19, I encourage you all to continue to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, and practice social distancing. We will get through it together. We are a resilient community. We are Everett Strong.

Carlo DeMaria is the Mayor of Everett.

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