Nonprofit helps formerly incarcerated youth during COVID-19 crisis

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by Jason Cohen

A Manhattan based nonprofit is teaming up with a Mott Haven caterer to help feed the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO) of East Harlem, is partnering with Great Performances and the NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA) to provide 60,000 meals a week and is also donating 100 meals daily in the south Bronx and Pelham Gardens. Great Performances is hiring GOSO clients to prepare the meals.

GOSO serves formerly incarcerated and justice system-involved people.

Since 2004, GOSO has helped thousands of young men gain financial independence and become contributing members of their communities.

GOSO CEO Dr. Jocelynne Rainey spoke about job placement challenges and opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals and court-involved young people. She noted that the national recidivism rate is 70 percent, while GOSO’s is only 17.

“Being out and staying out has had a tremendous impact on the people that we serve,” Rainey said. “They are the heroes.”

While they assist them with finding jobs, resumes and reacclimating to life, it is not easy as the men deal with family conflicts, financial instability and lack of education.

“There are so many issues they face on a daily basis,” Rainey commented.

She explained that when the opportunity arose to have their clients work at Greater Performances, it was a no-brainer.

Great Performances, which is known for its catering, pivoted to fresh meal delivery during COVID-19. It now prepares 9,950 meals weekly for staff at 10 hospitals in NYC, North Jersey and Westchester County. Additionally, they are preparing and delivering another 40,000 meals to 8,000 elderly city residents and in their Bronx neighborhood have committed to two local community groups to donate meals for families and seniors.

In conjunction with Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, they are supporting food delivery efforts in three NYCHA buildings.

One client of GOSO who is has been working at Great Performances for a month is Unique. The 23-year-old south Bronx resident has spent the last five years incarcerated.

Right now he is grateful to be free and be employed. He stressed that he owes a great deal of gratitude to GOSO, who kept in touch with him when he was locked up, sent him birthday cards and has made sure he stays on the right path.

He boxes up 2,000 to 3000 meals a day for first responders and the elderly and loves it.

“I wanted to help and I needed a job,” he said. “It’s a blessing, especially now with COVID-19.”

He explained that living in the south Bronx, he witness the daily struggle firsthand. So being able to give back means so much to him.

Unique told the Bronx Times the job is easy and in the future, he plans to go to college and open a business.

“I like the fact that I’m doing something good,” he explained. “We help provide meals for people who can’t provide.”

Read this article at Bronx Times.