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MCBA President’s Message: Ideas for helping out or getting help as pandemic continues

Jill Paperno (Photo by Bennett Loudon)

Jill Paperno (Photo by Bennett Loudon)

This is my last column before the holidays, and I’m a little stuck. Normally we would be talking about the MCBA events and celebrations, and perhaps fundraising. But instead, we are approaching what many in the medical field are describing as what may be the worst public health crisis in the history of our country. We know that vaccines have been created that are effective, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. However, the month by which enough will be vaccinated is still uncertain, and two vaccines means that even if you receive the first one, you have to observe COVID precautions past the second one before it becomes effective.

Many of our colleagues are struggling in a variety of ways — from financial issues, to food insecurity, to mental health. Those of us fortunate enough not to be facing these challenges right now know people who are. And others may not be telling us. I recently learned of someone I knew who was visiting a food pantry. We just don’t know. I am confident that I speak for our legal community when I say that we recognize this tragedy can impact any one of us. There is no shame in having been affected by this disease, whether through illness, loss of a job, or reduction of income.

If you are not familiar with some of the financial assistance that may be available, please take a look at the assistance for businesses linked by the county here: https://www.monroecounty.gov/economic-COVID19

Often, our legal community comes together to help around the holidays. In that spirit, I’d like to suggest some ways we can help each other and our community.

  1. There are Facebook groups assisting people who are struggling with food and material items. One is called “Hey Rochester, What You Need? What You Got?” It is a group in which people in need are not judged and the assistance is immediate and material — groceries, blankets, clothing. Generally, suggesting agencies is not what is needed at that time. If you are interested in taking a look there as a donor or recipient, you may ask to join.
  2. Another Facebook group, also a closed group, is “COVID-19 Rochester New York Food Relief.” People request and provide food. Again, members are not judging others or offering agency assistance.
  3. There are food pantries that are helping our community. I would venture to say that they are assisting more people than ever before. Some stock outside shelves. Some visit communities on a scheduled basis. Here is a link to our local food pantries: https://roccitylibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/MONROE-COUNTY-AREA-FOOD-CUPBOARDS.pdf

In addition to material losses or insecurities, we are all more isolated now, missing friends, family and colleagues. Many are experiencing anxiety, depression and other challenges. The holidays can really bring that to a head. But the thing we think can help us the most — seeing friends and family — is the thing that imperils us the most. And so, we have to find other ways of connecting.

MCBA offers professional mental health services through Tree of Hope Counseling at no cost. Call 585-353-1541 or visit the Member Resources page on the MCBA website.

I actually facilitate a Facebook group where members discuss some of the problems we are facing each day — “You’re Not Alone – Monroe County, NY Coronachat.” Feel free to join in the conversation. The group includes teachers, scientists, stay-at-home moms, business owners and many others just offering and seeking connection.

So, while this is not the cheery, upbeat column I would like to have written, I am hoping that these offerings might make this upcoming month a little easier. And here is my lemonade out of lemons piece — for myself, though we have faced difficulties and challenges in our own household over the last year (and we are fine, but had some obstacles to overcome), we found new ways of appreciating this bizarre time. We spent Thanksgiving outside at two tables with neighbors from down the street, yes, in the drizzling rain at first — but it was lovely. We have reconnected with friends from years ago and Zoomed with them. And I have discovered trails in Mendon Ponds Park I never knew existed and become an avid fan of walking those trails. I hope you too are able to find some ease — maybe spending time hiking, or engaging in hobbies, or catching up on the new laws and practices in your field. And on behalf of all of us at MCBA I wish you peaceful, healthy, and yes, happy holidays and New Year.

Jill Paperno is president of the Monroe County Bar Association. She is First Assistant Public Defender at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office.