Showing off her bag at a food giveaway. Photo courtesy of RISE (Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability & Equity).

Dear Neighbor,

This is our last communication with you in 2021. What. A. Year. 

We were going to take this week off, but then Covid-19 positivity rates started to rise, our email inboxes filled up and our phone lines were flooded. So here we’ve been. 

So many of you reached out to Epicenter-NYC in 2021 to navigate the abundance of questions you had surrounding vaccines. It was our honor to be there to help more than 10,000 neighbors secure shots.  Over the last week, we’ve heard from so many of you again; confirms volunteer Diana Chiavetta: “I’ve reconnected with Epicenter clients that we had previously booked first-dose vaccine appointments for in the thick of February and March 2021, DESPERATELY looking for boosters. The Omicron surge of Christmas 2021 is here, but so is our resilience. I’m constantly in awe of the people of this city.”  

Please indulge me in a quick story. Years ago, while editing coverage of elections in Tanzania, I asked a digital strategist how he knew a WhatsApp campaign worked since data was so elusive. “When it comes back to me,” he said. “I put out a campaign and when it shows up on my phone again, then I know it’s been successful.” He called it the “boomerang effect.”

The other day, a friend sent me a photo on WhatsApp: A woman carrying the Bible and an Epicenter bag on the subway. 

A photo sent by a friend when she saw the familiar bag on the subway.


We’ve also given the bags to the Bangladeshi American Society at a mosque in Jamaica, Queens, during a vaccine event. 

Vaccine event at mosque in Jamaica, Queens. Photo courtesy of Bangladeshi American Society.

And Rockaway Rise for a food distribution event before Thanksgiving. (We also hooked them up with a vaccine truck.)

Standing near vaccine truck in Rockaway, Queens. Photo courtesy of RISE (Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability & Equity).

Last week, I was walking home with my daughter and a man was carrying these two Epicenter bags. I presume he was coming back from the food pantry down the street, where we’ve donated hundreds of bags throughout the year. 

Man at 34th Avenue Open Streets in Jackson Heights, Queens. Photo: S. Mitra Kalita / Epicenter NYC

Boomerang again. 

I tell this story because these bags represent Epicenter in so many different ways: they serve multiple communities at once; their insulation is also practical, to help people who get items at a food pantry and need to haul them home on long bus or subway rides; and they do double duty as messengers for us with our website and phone number prompting people to tell us what they need. 

Remember, tell us what you need. Tell us what you think. 

We’ll see you on the other side of the year. Before we let you go, a few things…

Vigil attendees in Jackson Heights, Queens. Photo: Nitin Mukul / Epicenter NYC

Do you want to support us? 

You can subscribe to our newsletter here. We list ways to get and give help, and we also keep you up-to-date on vaccine news, day trips across the region, pasta delivery, and other tricks to be the ultimate insider. As we hunker down again due to the resurgence of Covid-19 positivity rates, remember we are here to connect you to news, information—and to each other. 

You can become an Epicenter-NYC member here. If you liked or benefited from the work we did, please DONATE and help support us to do even more! Some things we’re planning for when we have more resources: an artist-in-residency program, a reporter to cover government from the perspective of communities, more editing and production help!

Even donating a little bit goes a long way. 

Father and child sitting in Diversity Plaza, Queens. Photo: Nitin Mukul / Epicenter NYC

Do you need a Covid-19 booster, test or other vaccine? 

Our volunteers are still standing by to help. Remember everyone over the age of 16 now qualifies for a booster; you should have received your second dose six months ago or more. If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it is advised you get your booster after two months of receiving that shot. We also just wrote about the best masks to wear and what to do if you lost your vaccine card

If you need help, call 917-818-2690 or email

(We also can help secure appointments for your kids ages 5 to 11.) Just let us know. And our site in Queens Village is offering tests, vaccines and boosters on Wednesdays and Sundays through January; look for us in or near Ss. Joachim & Anne Church at 218-27 Hollis Ave.)

Do you need anything else? Just ask. 

We love hearing from you. Our vaccine efforts led to deeper connections across New York City, such as friendships formed among volunteers, restaurant managers and healthcare professionals. We also heard from many of you that you need help navigating food pantries, immigration laws and tutors for your kids. These queries help shape our coverage and community engagement. Please keep letting us know what you need. Email us at

Finally, importantly, we wish you a safe and happy new year. Thanks for being such a good neighbor. 


S. Mitra Kalita

Publisher and co-founder, Epicenter-NYC

S. Mitra Kalita is a veteran journalist, media executive, prolific commentator and author of two books. In 2020 she launched Epicenter-NYC, a newsletter to help New Yorkers get through the pandemic. Mitra...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.