EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – As the number of confirmed cases and the deaths rose, as hospitals, doctors and nurses coped with too many patients and too little equipment, as millions of citizens lost their jobs and scourge of the coronavirus pandemic seemed to worsen by the hour, Allison Stangeby's overriding interest was what it always is when groups large or small are hurting: how can the Giants help?
Stangeby is the Giants' vice president of community and corporate relations and for more than two decades she has been charged with ensuring that the franchise – from ownership to practice squad players – is a constant and positive force in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.
In the best of times, the Giants are actively involved in a wide range of community and charitable endeavors, in and out of season. These, clearly, are not the best of times. The Giants aren't playing games, their offseason program is grounded and they aren't even allowed in their own building, the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
But the shutdown of the sports world hasn't mitigated the franchise's ability or desire to help the people in this region.
From the crisis' infancy, Stangeby has been in regular communication with team president John Mara and chairman Steve Tisch, members of her staff and several players. Her quick decision to move forward was prompted in part by a flashback to another national tragedy that immersed the Giants in numerous civic activities.
"As soon as everything started to happen, I immediately went back to 9/11," Stangeby said this week. "Back then, it was such a scary feeling because nobody knew what to do or how to handle anything. We kind of just started doing. I can remember the players asking, 'What can we do?' Back then it was time, talent and treasure. That was the big thing that they wanted to offer and they wanted to commit to."
Giants delegations visited Ground Zero and New York City firehouses, the organization donated supplies to first responders and hosted families who had lost a loved one in the terrorist attacks.
The Giants want to make a similar impact during the pandemic but must do so amid physical distancing, quarantines and other logistical restrictions.
"We went to lockdown and thought, 'Alright, we're going to need to do something.'" Stangeby said. "And went right back to, 'What can we do? The players can do the videos and say 'Hi, we're thinking about you' supporting the first responders, which we did a ton of. But in all honesty, making contributions to our community partners, who we are always working with, was pretty much the only thing that we could do to make a difference. It wasn't like we were doing it to pat ourselves on the back or make ourselves feel better. We're doing it because they need this help. This is the time where we can come together off the field and really make a difference."
Their initial outreach was right in their backyard. Stangeby contacted Teri Festa, the chief mission officer for the Meadowlands YMCA, where the Giants are covering the cost of child care for area first responders.
"It's a community partner we've been working with forever," Stangeby said. "When they started shutting schools down we asked, 'What's going on over there? Do you guys need help with anything? What's going on over there?'
"The kids who are in school all day long, their parents work and they don't have to worry about childcare. But those five to 12-year-olds right now can't be left home alone. Parents can't go to work because they have no place to put the kids. Through that, they created a program where they were opening up childcare for first responders, the nurses and doctors for the local hospitals. John and I talked about it and we said, 'Okay, we'll help fund this through May 31.' It's such a desperate need and it was just something that wasn't being addressed initially. We ended up getting 43 kids in there. It's a big facility, so they're able to keep the kids apart and provide meals. Then what ended up happening is that we contributed (additional funds) so that we could add some more kids and keep it going. Because who knows where this is going?"
Almost simultaneously with the child care launch, quarterback Daniel Jones reached out to Stangeby and said, "I want to help. What can I do?" After several conversations and a group email, numerous Giants players came together to contribute financially to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the Food Bank for New York City. The players were then eligible to apply for an additional grant through the NFL for up to $5,000.
"The food banks are desperate for everything, especially with the market going absolutely haywire," Stangeby said. "Food is definitely a huge issue right now."
The Mara and Tisch families have been characteristically involved in philanthropic efforts. For example, Laurie Tisch – Steve's sister and the founder of the Laurie Tisch Illumination Fund – has donated $2 million to New York hospitals and first responders.
Some of the Giants' other community contributions during the pandemic include the following:
• Donated leftover food from their facility and MetLife Stadium to Rock and Wrap it Up.
• Donated medical gloves and masks to Hackensack Meridian Health.
• Donated gloves, goggles and ponchos to the office of Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco.
• Donated ponchos to New York City for hospital use.
• Donated to Hackensack University Medical Foundation to provide food for first responders.
• Donated to the Food Bank for New York City, the Community Foodbank of New Jersey and the Center for Food Action.
• Donated to Americares.
• Donated to the N.J. Pandemic Relief Fund
• Donated to the New York City Police Foundation.
As the pandemic continues, the Giants will continue to provide help where it's needed.
"Obviously, the first place is the hospitals," Stangeby said. "We're going to help them, they need the PPEs (personal protective equipment), so whenever we find stuff at our facility or at the stadium, we are able to get it to them. As it relates to food, these doctors and nurses are working crazy hours. I can't even imagine they have time to eat anything. That's when we said we're going to provide meals. The meals are brought to them in containers that they don't have to worry about catching a virus on. Everything is prepared with the virus in mind so they don't have to worry about being contaminated.
"Then, all of the people who have their lost job. You hear about the (government relief) package. When people get that money or their unemployment check or whatever the case may be, they're going to opt to pay for their car insurance or their car payment because they know they can go to the food bank. Knowing that the food banks are going to be in desperate need for food and assistance, we made those contributions to the food banks. Back to the Meadowlands, the childcare. You know that those nurses, doctors need the help, so the childcare makes sense, too."
As did the contribution to the New York City Police Foundation, which is providing PPEs for police, fire department, first responders, as well as security and healthcare workers at the hospitals.
"The doctors and nurses are getting all the PPEs, but the security people and other workers at the hospital need them and weren't getting them," Stangeby said. "So, police were going to get them to the hospitals."
"We have had such a long history with New York City police, Port Authority, FDNY from 9/11 through now. We always just come together with them during these times. I just think it was automatic. We just helped. It wasn't a question of, 'What do you want to do?' 'It's, 'We are doing something. This is what we have to do.' There were no options. It wasn't a question, we're just doing it. That's it."