As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise, the Naples community has had to adapt and deal with the numerous challenges the virus brings. Businesses, restaurants and good samaritans are coming together to support people throughout the city. From donating meals to those in need, to surprising NHS seniors with gift baskets, to ensuring the safety of our pets during these scary times, people have come together to help each other out.
NO HUNGRY LITTLE TUMMIES LEFT BEHIND
David Yarinsky, local chef and owner of The Great Foodini’s Mobile Bistro, has given much of his time and effort to aid those in need of meals. He has helped to feed over 24,000 people in the last 3 months through a project called “No Hungry Little Tummies Left Behind.”
“I knew something needed to be done, considering a ton of kids get free lunch and breakfast at their schools and they rely on that transportation to get them to those meals,” Yarinsky said. “We started this program, meaning me and a truck, and it grew into being able to deliver. That’s my reasoning- knowing that there was a need.”
The fundraiser is aimed at kids who are in need of meals and might not be able to travel to get those meals. Yarinsky said that they are donating around 650 meals per day.
Starting May 27, the food truck adopted a new policy.
“For every meal that somebody buys at the food truck, a meal is given to somebody in need,” Yarinsky said.
Anyone who is interested in donating perishable/non-perishable food or money can visit the No Hungry Little Tummies Left Behind Facebook group.
“I always think we can do so much more,” Yarinsky said.
In addition to meals being delivered, people have also been dropping off gifts at graduating seniors’ houses to surprise them.
So far, there have been several local efforts to cheer up high school seniors before they head off to college. The “Adopt a Senior” project and the “Surprise a Senior” project are just two of them.
The “Surprise a Senior” project has helped to put a smile on over 80 NHS seniors’ faces. People were able to select the senior they wanted to make a gift for and deliver it to their house.
Many seniors were grateful that they were being appreciated despite many of their fun end-of-school activities being canceled, such as prom and Project Graduation.
“This is actually such a sweet thing you’re putting together and I really appreciate it,” NHS senior Abby Katz said. “This entire thing has been such a heartbreaking thing for all of us seniors, but people like you make it much better.”
Most of the bags were filled with candy, gift cards and notebooks. Some people even signed up to make gifts for students they didn’t even know!
Joan Sabatino heard about the project through Facebook. She donated lots of her time, energy, and money to support the cause and helped to put together many of the surprises for seniors she didn’t even know.
“I was so touched at the empathy people were able to feel for others, most of whom no one would know personally,” Sabatino said. “It’s always the right thing to do to make others know they are special and cared for, and sometimes it’s even better when it’s done anonymously.”
Sabatino made countless trips to the craft stores and even created her unique paper chains, but she knew that it was for a good cause.
“I enjoyed being part of a group of people who were kind enough to give of themselves and their resources to surprise a senior who was robbed of the chance to do what every one of us had the opportunity to do…enjoy the end of senior year, prom, graduation, parties and last goodbyes to students you may not ever see again or certainly won’t ever see again on a daily basis,” Sabatino said.
She left the graduates with a few words of advice: “Have fun, but be dedicated to your studies or wherever life takes you after graduation… No matter what you choose to be, strive to be the best at it. And if you live by these few thoughts, you will have a wonderful life.”
NAPLES COASTAL ANIMAL HOSPITAL
Many small businesses have struggled to open their doors throughout these tough times, but Naples Coastal Animal Hospital has continued to stay open for their patients since the pandemic first hit Naples (even if that meant car side appointments).
The hospital has also been taking in and caring for many strays throughout the past few months. They have treated and cared for close to a dozen animals found abandoned and in need of homes.
Also, working throughout the past few months, Dr. Sterling Sigmond has noticed that many more people are adopting new pets!
“I have had many more new client and new puppy/kitten visits than usual,” Sigmond said. “I think people are looking for connections and company during this time of isolation. Many people are stressed during these uncertain times and a pet can help to alleviate stress and provide purpose.”
She said that more people are inclined to adopt because they are spending lots of time at home, giving them time to train their new furry friends.
She also said that our moods can reflect in our pet’s behavior.
“Pets can be affected by their owner’s stress and sadness, so if their owners are stressed during this time, the pets may act this way as well, mirroring their owner’s stress,” Sigmond said. “Also, the pet may be acting differently as well in response to the owner being home more. Pets can develop anxiety and depression as well.”
Sigmond suggested some ideas for owners who want to play with their pets while still keeping in mind their own safety.
“Encourage interactions with your pet to show love and affection,” Sigmond said. “Petting, brushing, exercising together, reading to your pet and playing with toys are all great activities.”
Many people are wondering when the coronavirus will no longer be a threat, and the answer is still unknown.
For now, Naples residents will continue to aid people (and pets) who need help and face this pandemic together.
“Be the best ‘you’ you can be. Be kind,” Sabatino said. “Always, always, always step up when you see or hear something bad happening.”