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In a hot spot

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has called the Bay State “a national hot spot for COVID-19 infections.” Chelsea, a city just across the Mystic River from Boston, had the highest rate of positive COVID-19 cases in the state as of late April.

“It’s a really highly populated and densely populated area,” explained Captain Isael Gonzalez of the Chelsea/East Boston Corps.

The city is also home to a large Hispanic community. Many of them lost their jobs when businesses were forced to close.

“That’s the story we hear from lots of folks,” Gonzalez said. “Many of the volunteers we have here are people who lost their jobs. They are bored at home and say, ‘We want to do something.’ So, they come and provide services.

“In every room of the corps, we have people working on different tasks. Ever since COVID-19 started, we have gotten so busy here at the corps level.”

The corps had given out 6,000 hot meals and 4,700 food boxes by the end of April. Gonzalez said the corps dealt with about 75 families a day before COVID-19, but in April that number increased to 260 each day. The corps has also delivered food when necessary.

Gonzalez said his wife, Captain Brenda Gonzalez, who runs many of the children’s programs at the corps, has delivered spiritual food to the kids stuck at home.

“She is in constant communication with them to see how they’re doing,” Gonzalez said. “Many of their parents come to pick up food.”

Gonzalez said as a pastor, he has tried to bring hope to his congregation and clients in a time of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.

“The hope that I bring to them is that they’re not alone,” Gonzalez said. “We are here to support them in any way possible. If they are in need of essential items, such as food, they can come to us. If they are in need of prayer, obviously we provide that as well.

“I just let them know God has a purpose for everything that takes place and we just have to remain faithful and remain strong and we can get through this together.”

by Robert Mitchell

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