(NEWARK) – When Assemblywoman Shanique Speight heard of a senior in her community taking toilet paper out of public restrooms because she had run out of bath tissue at home, Speight knew she had to take action to help seniors struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Older adults have a higher risk of experiencing severe illness from COVID-19. As a result, some seniors may feel uncomfortable going out to shop during the pandemic, or may find it difficult to navigate crowded stores.
To help seniors during this challenging time, Speight launched an “Adopt a Senior” initiative to deliver groceries and household necessities to older adults in her hometown of Newark.
“Even in the best of times, grocery shopping can be challenging for seniors. The threat of COVID-19 can make it even more difficult,” said Speight (D-Essex), who serves on the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee. “Some seniors may need a little extra help to get through this crisis. The good news is there are many people ready to step up and lend a hand.”
A week before Governor Phil Murphy initiated New Jersey’s stay-at-home order, Speight purchased a variety of household items like toilet paper, canned goods, cereal, cleaning products and snacks. She recruited volunteers to help package items in her living room. The volunteers delivered 40 bags of groceries to senior residence buildings in Newark.
As word spread of the initiative, local residents began donating money and groceries to help the program continue. Others volunteered to be paired with a senior to check in on them regularly via phone.
Speight now shops for groceries and makes deliveries on her own while practicing social distancing. She is accepting donations on her Facebook page via her nonprofit, Love Thy Neighbor, to benefit the senior initiative.
In addition to her work with “Adopt a Senior,” Speight recently began sewing masks for local first responders. She purchased a sewing machine, cloth and elastic, and designed effective masks using pieces of room air purifier filters.
She crafted her first set of masks for first responders in the Essex County Sheriff’s Office. The masks have a thin blue line to represent their service as law enforcement officers.
Speight has made 30 masks so far and continues to make more.
“I see this pandemic as an opportunity to give back to my community,” said Speight. “Even when you’re staying at home, you can still make a difference right from your living room.”
To volunteer or donate to “Adopt a Senior,” please send a message to the Assemblywoman’s Facebook page at facebook.com/shaniquespeight4nj.