The food pantry at Christ Church in Teaneck has received a $10,000 donation to help feed those who have been impacted by the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The board of the Hudson Lutheran Charity chose Christ Church to receive the gift just a week before Christmas.
“I was shocked,” says the Rev. Michelle White, vicar at Christ Church. “We depend on small donations, and folks have been faithful in making those small donations. But to receive $10,000, I was flabbergasted.”
The leaders of the charity made the decision after one of the members came to Christ Church to observe the food being distributed.
“We do some research and see who is worthy and might need some help,” says board member Ken Wessler. “We’ve been trying to help food pantries, especially around the holidays.”
Wessler notes even though Teaneck might be considered an “affluent” community, that doesn’t mean many residents aren’t facing some difficult financial choices.
“Things still happen to everybody,” he explains. “Do you pay the mortgage or buy food?”
The Rev. White couldn’t be more thankful.
“The pantry has grown exponentially in ways I never anticipated,” she adds. “We never anticipated this pandemic and food crisis. It’s inhumane not to respond. The $10,000 will help us make a more vigorous response.”
The once-modest pantry used to serve a handful of families two Saturdays a month. But after the coronavirus outbreak led to massive unemployment and financial hardships, the demand exploded, and soon the pantry was operating every Saturday, supplying much-needed food and other essentials to hundreds of people each week.
The long lines of those seeking help attracted the attention of members of the local Orthodox Jewish community who live in the neighborhood, and soon donations of food and money came pouring in from them. News about the food distribution effort has prompted gifts from St. Mark’s, Teaneck and other churches in the Diocese of Newark; businesses such as Holy Name Hospital, Suez and Bogota Auto Body; Fordham University; and many area residents.
Also noticing the work of the pantry were officials from Bergen County, including Commissioner Tracy Zur, who helped secure a large refrigerator and freezer to store perishable items in the church sanctuary. In addition, the Bergen County Board of Commissioners donated $5000 in supermarket gift cards to be handed out to those in need and promised to provide a van to be used to transport food from around the county. In addition, the Sheriff’s and Prosecutor’s Offices have lent assistance in delivering supplies to the church.
Thanks to the efforts of the Rev. White and others, food has been regularly received from a wide range of sources, including Stu Leonard’s in Paramus, the Center for Food Action, Community Food Bank of New Jersey and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Monetary donations have gone towards purchasing food and even toys for children whose families were not able to afford them during the holiday season.
The pantry believes some 10,000 people have gotten food assistance since the COVID-19 outbreak began to significantly affect the country in March.
Because Christ Church is small with limited facilities and depends on members of the congregation and other volunteers to run the pantry, the Rev. White says she hopes to raise enough money to be able to afford to buy more refrigerators and bring in an administrator who can coordinate this now-major Bergen County food assistance program.
And the Hudson Lutheran Charity donation will help support that effort as well.
“There are a lot of things we need to pay for, and $10,000 is quite a chunk of it,” she explains. “We’re all heartened by such a generous show of support. I’m grateful. I’m really grateful.”