By Alexandra Moyen
ROSEDALE — As the pandemic was about to peak in New York City, and amid people suffering from the effects of losing jobs, one woman decided to do what she could to help a struggling community.
Since April, St. Clare parish has been hosting a food drive, started by a parishioner, Patricia Robinson, every Thursday to help those in need throughout Rosedale and Brookville.
At the event, parishioners and youth ministries came together to hand out milk, bread, vegetables and fruit, fruit cups, and bags of packed lunches, which included an array of different meals such as honey garlic soy-glazed salmon, lemon pepper rotisserie chicken, and baked mushroom chicken. The event typically sees between 100-150 people show up to collect food, which is donated by the Knights of Columbus.
Robinson, who works in hospice care and is a community health nurse, said she noticed the neighborhoods of Rosedale, St. Albans, Laurelton, and Cambria Heights — and the elderly she cared for — were struggling during the pandemic.
“I know we live in a neighborhood where the houses look great on the outside, but what’s really happening on the inside is what really is important,” Robinson said. “I know husbands have lost their jobs. Most people need two incomes for them to survive, one income could just pay the bills. And what about food?”
Robinson said the neighborhoods are predominantly black and home to many Carribeans who have “pride” and don’t wish to ask for help or for food. So she brought together parishioners and members of the St. Clare’s youth ministry to help come up with an idea to help.
“Just knowing how much we always want to give to our community, it was the best thing for us to do, and weekly, we just keep growing,” Robinson said.
Briana Turin, the upcoming president of the youth ministry, said she saw many churches doing food drives and thought St. Clare’s should do it too.
“We reached out to the other side of Rosedale and different churches around our community,” Turin said. “People from different churches come and get food for their churches. We even see people who don’t even come to church.”
Robinson said they first began spreading the news of their food drive by getting in touch with different churches before it began traveling through word of mouth.
“These foods are nutritious, individually packed. Anybody can eat them, you’re diabetic, you can eat them, you have hypertension, you can eat them,” Robinson said. “They’re low sodium, low salt, low acid … just put them in the microwave and eat.”
She described the help she received from the Knights of Columbus as a “blessing” because she knew she couldn’t ask parishioners and community members for money during their own struggle.
“We are not asking anybody to give us any money and we have not been giving any money,” Robinson said. “Everybody that you see here has volunteered their time to be here and each and every one of them has pretty much been here every Thursday since we’ve been doing this.”
Marjorie Spence, who is part of St. Clare’s flower ministry, said she wanted to help because she feels the food drive is beneficial to the parish.
“I think St. Clare likes to give and we like to make other people happy as they come and encounter the living Christ with us,” Spence said. “So by doing this, we are experiencing Christ. And our pastor … did say, ‘Feed the poor.’ ”
Father Andrew Struzzieri, the pastor of St. Clare’s, said it feels “good” to have his church do something for those in “genuine need.”
“They’re working on one of the signs, ‘Feed the hungry,’ ” Father Struzzieri said. “You take a look at our neighborhood, it’s a middle-class neighborhood but there is hidden poverty here. The elderly and some of the houses break up their basements into one-room apartments that mainly young people would live in.”
Kimani Williams, the current president of the youth ministry, said the food drive isn’t only attracting new people looking for help but people looking to help as well.
“[One volunteer] does not attend church here — I’m not even sure if he’s Catholic and he’s not part of our youth ministry — but he’s friends with one of our youth members,” Williams said. “He heard about what we were doing and he wanted to come back and help out.”
Williams said she hopes this inspires others.
“It doesn’t have to be the church itself. It can be different people in the church like parishioners or anyone who knows that someone is in need. Just be a helping hand to others,” Williams said.
Turin said it feels great to help her community.
“Actually taking the time out of your day to go outside and actually give to people who need it,” Turin said. “I just know that I’m not sitting home doing nothing. I’m actually doing something for the community and helping people that actually need it.”