Ten to be thankful for

During the pandemic, Lester Stein organized socially distanced meetings at the Whitechapel Village gazebo, where he and other neighbors coordinated help for homebound residents.

As the pandemic took hold in April 2020, Lester Stein and a neighbor grew worried about some of their fellow residents in Whitechapel Village, a 55+ condominium community near the Newark Senior Center.

Hoping to provide a break to the isolation, they put notices in everyone’s door inviting them to socially distanced meetings outside.

“Some people would come out and stand on their sidewalk, and then other people would walk up and down the aisle talking to people to see what’s going on, do you need anything, etc.,” Stein said. “It kind of just happened.”

At the end of every evening, a core group would end up at the gazebo in the center of the neighborhood, and they began coordinating help for neighbors who needed it.

A year and a half later, the daily gazebo meetings continue.

Neighbors said Stein is known for helping out wherever needed, such as sharing meals, picking up medications for people, driving people to doctor’s appointments, rolling trash cans to the curb and checking up on elderly neighbors.

“All together, he helps build a friendly, helpful community,” neighbor Melora Davis said.

Stein, a Baltimore native who moved to Newark in 2009, said his efforts were inspired by watching how neighbors checked in on his late mother, who lived in West Virginia.

“I’ve said to many people, if my mother knew there was a neighbor of mine, especially a single woman, who needed help doing anything, and I didn’t offer to help her, she’d come back from wherever she is and she would beat the hell out of me until I went back over there,” he said, laughing.

Besides his efforts in Whitechapel Village, Stein is a regular volunteer at Newark Parks and Recreation Department events, often serves as a course marshal for Fusion Racing events, prepares a monthly meal for the Newark Empowerment Center and assists with the annual U Don’t Need It event, which collects and repurposes items discarded by outgoing University of Delaware students.

Stein said community service was ingrained in him at an early age, when he lived in a neighborhood where it was the norm.

“Everybody just pitched in and helped each other,” he said. “That’s all I’ve ever done my entire life is just, if you see somebody down the street who has trouble digging a hole, you take your shovel down there and you help them dig a hole.”

–Josh Shannon

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