It’s not always just about baseball — especially in times like these.
The New York Mets, their foundation and their Community Investment Team are poised to spend over $1 million in COVID-19 relief efforts by the end of July as they continue to support a city that was once the epicenter of the virus in the United States.
Working with local businesses since the initial outbreak, the Mets have reached out to assist New York City’s medical workers and, soon after, its citizens amidst the pandemic, which has had over 224,000 confirmed cases since March.
The Mets have helped feed 7,500 hospital workers, donated 20,500 T-shirts and jerseys to essential workers, donated more than 5,200 plastic and tote bags to assist local food banks, and put together over 1,758 cases of food and beverages for local pantries — all while supporting 51,530 families with donations or other assistance.
It all stemmed from for a need to help one of the city’s most impacted areas at the start of the pandemic — Elmhurst Hospital in Queens — Executive Director of External Affairs and Community Engagement Danielle Parillo told amNewYork Metro.
“Looking for the epicenter of the coronavirus, you didn’t have to look too far to see,” Parillo said. “You know the conditions over at Elmhurst hospital and you know what the doctors and the nurses were facing there so the very first thing we started off doing was help Elmhurst.”
Early scenes from Elmhurst were of chaos as the hospital — which was the main line of defense for a 7-square-mile community — was overrun by the virus as hallways were packed with patients while outdoor freezers were shipped in to house the dead.
Working alongside Mama’s of Corona, the popular Citi Field eatery, Parillo and the Mets got things moving quickly.
“They said we have a lot of food that we were going to use for Opening Day. So we worked with them to provide 500 boxed lunches for the doctors and nurses at Elmhurst, I believe on National Doctors Day, which was in March,” Parillo said. “And we used our ballpark operations teams, our security teams to load all this into a truck and deliver it to Elmhurst Hospital. And that kind of got the ball rolling.”
From there, they began branching out across the city.
“We worked with a few different delis around the city that could provide individualized box lunches. That’s what the hospitals really needed. So you can just grab and go, there was no sharing or anything like that,” she said. “And we just went one by one reaching out to the hospitals. Some we had existing relationships with; others, we didn’t. We just tried to look to see and ask, ‘Where is the need?’”
As the outbreak stabilized, the Mets began looking toward the community to help out families affected by the virus, most notably helping P.S. 19 — the largest elementary school in the city with over 2,000 students and is also down the road from Citi Field in Elmhurst — and the community in one of its most desperate hours.
“There’s someone on staff there, she’s normally in charge of helping the most at-risk kids — about 30 percent of the student population lives out of a low-income household — and she normally runs a food pantry during the school year,” Parillo said. “So she was actually getting together funds on her own through her own Facebook page or using her own money to try to organize deliveries to a lot of the families that she works with because a lot of these families, the parents were sick or in the hospital, they have a lot of young kids, they couldn’t leave the house.”
“So we worked with her, and we helped her run a food pantry out of our box drop the outside P.S. 19. We fed 250 families that first time and since then, it’s evolved to where she’s been running a pantry every week at different locations.”
While the Mets’ efforts branched out to Long Island as well, working at the NHL’s Islanders’ home at Nassau Coliseum alongside Island Harvest, Parillo and her team have also worked on donating clothing to those in need.
“We have donated thousands and thousands of T-shirts that we’ve shipped out to hospitals, community groups and everything like that for them to distribute. And it just puts a smile on people’s faces,” Parillo said. “I was getting texts from our contact like, ‘Hey, real quick, look at what this nurse wore to work today’ and it was a Michael Conforto pullover jersey.”
“If you can give them a Mets T-shirt and it’s going to put a smile on their face or put a smile on their kid’s face after they’re working ridiculous shifts under crazy conditions, trying to save lives, it’s the easiest thing for us to do.”
Parillo said that if it wasn’t for the teams’ current owners, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz, their project could have never gotten off the ground.
“There’s always been a great spirit at the Mets to give back. And it was great to see so many people come out. You don’t want to be sitting home not doing anything; that’s just not in our DNA,” Parillo said. “The Mets were very active in doing this and I think for people to come in and do something and help, it made them feel good and made them feel normal. We’re just happy to have the support of Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz. They’ve been behind us all the way on this. And, you know, it’s nice to have such great support to do all this.”
This story originally appeared on amny.com.