NEW YORK - Chris Porr knows firsthand what it's like to have the coronavirus.
"Oh, it was absolutely horrible," he told VOA via Zoom from Evangel Church in Long Island City, New York. "I couldn't breathe, I was throwing up, I had fever for five straight days."
He was hospitalized for 12 hours and self-quarantined for several weeks to protect his family.
Despite the ravages of an illness that has killed more than 75,000 people in the United States, the native New Yorker considers himself lucky.
And he was back on the job doing what he loves most: volunteering to help others in need.
Porr is from a city, he reminded VOA, that never falters in the face of adversity. First there was 9/11. Then came Hurricane Sandy. And now, the coronavirus. The city of his birth has been the epicenter of three catastrophic events in the past two decades.
But amid tragedy and chaos, each time, New Yorkers have shown resilience and stepped up to help their communities with countless acts of kindness, both big and small.
Porr spoke with VOA from one of the food distribution centers at New York Cares, an organization that has repeatedly risen to the challenge in times of crisis.
Small actions, big impact
Founded in 1987, the organization has been providing food and other essentials to the most vulnerable of the city's residents – those who are living near or below the poverty line.
Porr was there, helping a team of volunteers bag and deliver food to the area's residents most in need.
New York Cares began COVID-19 relief efforts March 16. In partnership with the city, the organization has served more than 450,000 meals through volunteer meal delivery programs.
Porr has volunteered with the organization for almost six years, working seven days a week.
"People are starving out there, they need food, they need us," Porr said.
"We have seniors who cannot go out to the stores, we have kids with disabilities who are not in their schools, and we also deliver to undocumented immigrants," he said. "Just about anybody who needs food, gets it."
In Porr's program, most food donations come from an area food bank and City Harvest, New York City's largest food-rescue organization. This year the organization "rescued" food from area restaurants and retail establishments to deliver it, free of charge, to hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens and other community partners across the five boroughs.
Each delivery by New York Cares includes a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables, dry goods such as rice and pasta, and canned items.
Porr says he gets a profound sense of fulfillment from volunteering.
"Some people cry; they're overjoyed that they're getting this much food … for free," he said. "They really need this, especially during this time."
The specific food pantry where he's currently a team leader is getting more volunteers every day due to the growing need for food for the most vulnerable residents.
"I'm always trying to help out the community when I can, but especially during New York's time of need," Porr said.
"We are so proud to have Chris Porr as one of our team leaders during this difficult time," said Gary Bagley, executive director of New York Cares, in an email to VOA.
"After recovering from coronavirus firsthand, Chris knew he wanted to help his community and we are honored that he chose New York Cares as a way to give back to the city's vulnerable residents."
Porr leads groups of meal delivery volunteers several times a week.
"He personally makes deliveries to hundreds of local families and we are very grateful for his dedication," Bagley said.
Porr says he keeps a busy schedule and is always trying to learn new things.
"I constantly take classes to better myself. I teach at night, to help people get their citizenship, and I do all the volunteer projects with New York Cares because it's such a fantastic organization," he said.
He also works on weekends.
He helps kids with disabilities ride horses for therapeutic purposes on Saturdays and works with the Church of St. Francis Xavier on Sundays to deliver meals to homeless people.
In addition to his volunteer commitments, Porr also works as a lead electrician, helping to renovate New York's Penn Station.
His grueling schedule doesn't leave him much personal time.
"My family understands, and they are 100% percent behind me on this," Porr said. "It's tough, but I feel like if there's a little bit of time in your life that you can spare, people really need you … and they really need you at this time."
He credits his mother for his dedication to his fellow New Yorkers.
"My mother instilled these values in me, and I've done this throughout my entire life, so this is nothing new for me," Porr said. "Just to help out and be a part of this great city is priceless."