Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Serving her young adults during a global pandemic

New York Young Adult Volunteers site coordinator recovers from COVID-19

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Maureen Anderson with New York Young Adult Volunteers Christina Hogan, Ana Bintinger, Ross Hartmans, and Trevor Merrifield. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Each year, site coordinators of the Young Adult Volunteer Program expect challenges. There are new participants, new personalities, new issues each year. But Maureen Anderson, site coordinator for New York City, faced some truly unique challenges this year serving at the U.S. epicenter of a global pandemic.

She focused on staying present with her YAVs while not being able to be present. She facilitated getting them back to their homes to shelter-in-place, where all are safe and working remotely with their partners. She was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and admit to herself she did not feel well.

She had contracted COVID-19.

“It was difficult to breathe. My chest felt like it was caving in. I started to cough,” she said. “I couldn’t even talk on the phone for five minutes. My goal was to give my YAVs what they needed, and they didn’t need me on the other end of a Zoom call looking like I was suffering.”

Anderson has a strong board of directors and one of them was more than willing to step in for two weeks while she recovered. She said she is nearly 100 percent now, but still doing breathing exercises to strengthen her lungs. She believes, because of her asthma, it may have taken her a little longer to recover. Both of her adult sons were sick too, and both have recovered.

This is Anderson’s second year as a site coordinator. She had previously worked as a compliance officer and professional trainer in international banking. When she became a casualty of downsizing, she wanted to take the time to discern her next steps.

A friend told her about the YAV opening and it appealed to her because she was active in several church ministries and felt, as a mother, she had an affinity to working with young people.

“I asked myself, how can I translate my experience in training and education to become a site coordinator? It has been a great fit, an amazing journey so far,” she said.

The New York YAV site hosted four young adults this year — two men and two women working in various service ministries.

One YAV is working with Presbyterian Senior Services, assisting those who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s or dealing with dementia. Another is working with Broadway Presbyterian Church, helping to operate clothing and food pantries. One night a month they take all the pews out of the church and turn it into a community table with restaurant-setting tables and chairs, lights hanging from the ceiling and a menu from appetizers to dessert, as well as musical entertainment. People have a chance to connect as a community or meet new people.

Another YAV works at the Kairos Center assisting with marches and events related to the Poor People’s Campaign. The Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice is self-described as “working to raise up generations of religious and community leaders committed to the unity and organization of the poor as the leading social force in the building of a broad transformative movement to end poverty.”

The fourth YAV works with NYDIS, New York Disaster Interfaith Services, which assists individuals, families and businesses affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes. They did a backpack drive for children who arrived from Puerto Rico after the disastrous hurricane. They also helped provide supplies for the temporary hospital at the Jacob Javits Center.

Anderson said she was comfortable and confident with the partners, always knowing they put the safety of the volunteers above all else.

Although they are now remotely serving their partners, they still have YAV nights where they get together and have discussions around the two pandemics in the U.S. today, coronavirus and racial injustice, as well as supporting one another through the challenges.

“I believe that as challenging as this was, there is something good coming next,” Anderson said. “This is the rain before the rainbow. I have high hopes I’ve also been in a place where I was in pain and under a dark cloud and have been brought out into light. I am encouraged that these young adults still want to be a part of the program and realize how much their service is needed. We are going to grow from this.”

Rev. Everdith Landrau, coordinator of the YAV program, had these words to describe the way Anderson has served the program. “Maureen is a true example of resilience in the midst of great suffering,” she said. “She took care of her family and the YAVs in a time when New York City was the epicenter of COVID-19 cases and related deaths. Her faith in Jesus Christ and spirituality have been a witness to site coordinators and our staff. The YAV program has sought to be flexible and creative during these difficult times.”

Anderson is also a writer and poet . Here’s a poem she calls “Unbroken Spirit”:

Words. Where are the words? Can you hear me?

I can’t breathe There is a pain

 A crushing of my spirit

I try to speak but, I can’t breathe

Melanin kissed sons and daughters

Born from royalty

Rejected by jealousy

Shout for peace, peace

But there is no peace I can’t breathe

I wish I could cover my ears

To muffle the sound of bones crushing

Under the knees of our oppressors

 I can’t breathe

I close my eyes

And search for my breath

 Images of my ancestors

Appear in my in between state

And, Breathe into me

 I open my eyes

I stand

 I march

 I fight for my rights

Like the bones of Elisha

 I will breathe again

And, you will hear me


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.