When Sharnovia Cruz walks into the Residence at Hallet’s Cove in Astoria, the smiles of clients and their calls of greeting put a lightness in her step and motivation in her heart. In a time where challenges morph and multiply with shocking speed, motivation is a welcome commodity.

Sharnovia, a Peer Specialist for the Total Wellness Program at the Queens-based residence, dubs herself a “jack-of-all-trades.” It’s a fitting moniker, no doubt, but all her varied tasks are united by a single objective: promoting the health of clients as best she can.

As a member of the Total Wellness Program team —which aims connect clients to community-based sources of medical care in order to improve their overall health, while also educating clients on basic health principles and chronic disease management—Sharnovia runs workshops, teaches clients how to cook healthy meals, assists clients in interfacing with their care teams, and arranges safe outdoor activities. She also partners with Case Managers in scheduling clients’ medical appointments and helping clients reach their monthly goals.

Her favorite part? Getting to know the individuals she serves. “I’m glad to be in a position to help underserved people better their lives,” Sharnovia says. She enjoys developing relationships of trust with clients.

But Sharnovia’s job is not always easy. A frequent challenge is helping clients to appreciate why a healthy lifestyle is important, and why it’s essential to keep on top of medical appointments and following regimens leading to better overall health.

For obvious reasons, key aspects of the Total Wellness Program took on new urgency in 2020. Many of the services coordinated by Sharnovia—health workshops, client medical appointments, etc.—became virtual.

Clients struggled at first to understand the new realities brought about by the coronavirus, but Sharnovia says their biggest challenges were in the social realm: a lack of visitors and restricted socialization within the residence due to social distancing guidelines. In common areas, for instance, quotas are enforced to reduce the risk of infection. Because reduced opportunities for socialization and support from family and friends can negatively impact a client’s mental health and wellness, Sharnovia and the Hallet’s Cove team have been creative in developing virtual socialization activities.

Sharnovia believes Urban Pathways’ policies strike an appropriate balance between safety and mission. “I’m proud of our organization,” she says.

By Urban Pathways on January 21, 2021