What a year this has been! It’s time to take another look at what has been done, and what must still be done, to help defend our immigrant friends in Ulster County. Since our last UPDATE we have seen an unprecedented expansion of public support for racial justice in the U.S., focused on the Black Lives Matter movement, but embracing as well a consistent and growing national consensus to end oppressive policies toward immigrants. The merging of these causes is a bright spot on a dark season, and many of our volunteers have in fact been engaged in both struggles.


The Covid-19 pandemic that reached us in late February unleashed an economic downturn whose ultimate depth and extent are still unknown.

We don’t have a breakdown of who got Covid-19 in Ulster County so far. But the CDC indicates that nationally Black Americans have been five times as likely to get sick as whites, and for Latinos the ratio is four times as likely. Put another way, Blacks and Latinos together account for about one third of the U.S. population, but they account for about two thirds of all Covid cases.

More than 45 million American workers have lost their jobs. Rent, food, and medical care were quickly out of reach for many, because most working families truly live paycheck to paycheck.

For laid-off immigrants the problems were even more severe. Many are not covered by unemployment compensation. Nor did they receive stimulus checks or other federal benefits. So in May and June, our focus at UIDN was on helping with rent and food, and on rounding up funding to pay for both.


At its peak, over 200 volunteers and many suppliers in our food program were aiding about 200 Ulster County families each week. By early June, in addition to much donated food, UIDN had itself purchased food worth over $16,000 for distribution. Now that New York is in a phase of cautious economic re-opening, fewer immigrant families are at home to receive “shop and deliver” or Wednesday food distribution packages to their door. But the need remains: we aim to spend $35,000 for additional food aid from June through December, with a new plan for distribution.

Starting July 29, UIDN will hold an open air free market from 4 to 7 pm on alternate Wednesdays at Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Church in Kingston. The market will feature rice, beans, maseca and other staples of Latinx cuisine, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables from Hudson Valley Food Bank, the Farm Hub and generous backyard gardeners. Some personal and household goods and used clothing will also be offered. And, when needed, we’ll still have an “emergency pantry,” accessible through our Helpline, between market days.


Our shift from home delivery to a free open air market, starting July 29, requires much preparation. Recently, Ella Williams, Jackson Scanlon, Raffie Legnini, and Clara Mead  sorted donated clothing for four hours! Thanks to them and to Lisa Phillips for inviting them. We hope they come again and bring their friends. (Photo: Leslie Gallagher.)


Funding all these efforts has been a major challenge, and we are grateful for the financial support that has come to UIDN in this year crowded with so many critical and worthy causes.

Major grants were sought and received from Episcopal Charities and Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley. We are grateful also to Holy Cross/Santa Cruz Episcopal Church, which has been our financial agent, receiving tax-deductible donations, since our beginning.

We have now received federal recognition as a charitable entity in our own right under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Act. Go Ahead. Try Us Out. Make a tax deductible donation directly to UIDN here.


We have learned that UIDN and other caring organizations in this Mid-Hudson region can mobilize to help our neighbors, at least for a while. But we also learned that there really is not any regional, state-wide or national plan or body of resources to truly meet such needs when they become more extended, as it now appears they are.