Formerly homeless ER nurse creates non-profit to help people on the streets

BETHPAGE, New York -- During the peak of the coronavirus pandemic - across the state of New York - everyone was feeling the impact one way or another.

Even though toilet paper was hard to find and cleaning supplies were running low, the one thing that people always seemed to have was food.

However, with restaurants closed and no people around, how were the thousands living on the streets supposed to survive?

Without restaurant scraps available or people's leftovers to collect, Long Island ER Nurse Andy Garabedian saw a group of people not getting the help they deserve - the homeless.

Garabedian felt their pain - as he was homeless in the early 2000s.

Working during the pandemic, he saw many people who were homeless - but it didn't hit him until he went to the city and saw the number of people on the streets with nothing to eat.

"I asked them what do you do for food," said Garabedian. "They said well there's not much we can't really pick through the garbage, there's not any food because there are no people, so I was like what do you guys do for food and they're like pray."

The trip to the city sparked something in Garabedian and he knew he needed to find a way to help these people.

Even though he was already working full-time as an ER Nurse at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream, Garabedian created Aggregate Hearts, a non-profit dedicated to helping the homeless struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Garabedian makes weekly trips to various homeless shelters across Long Island and in the city collecting whatever he can to help them during this time.

Whether it is a bundle of fresh fruit, winter clothes, or hearing how Garabedian can help their situation, he ensures that they will not be forgotten.

Garabedian knows the feeling all too well of being forgotten when he was living on the streets.

After being medically discharged from the Marines, Garabedian did not have a friendly relationship with his family. He decided to move to New York where he knew he had close friends that he could stay with.

However, Garabedian did not want to be a burden to his friends so he left and started living on the streets.

After a few cold winters, Garabedian found a priest who helped him get on his feet and enroll in school, eventually becoming an ER Nurse. Garabedian is happy that he landed a career where he could help people.

"I've been there and sometimes you need that spark into the lightness and out of the darkness," said Garabedian. You never know these people, something like a meal could be something simple, and you answer that prayer."

Garabedian is planning to conduct as many drop-offs as he can with his volunteers while continuing to work full-time as an ER Nurse.

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