by Antonina Zielinska
South Side Community Center, Williamsburg, is able to continue its Christian mission of feeding the hungry thanks to volunteers like the members of the youth group from SS. Peter and Paul, Williamsburg.
Giving up their free time on Sunday evening, Dec. 4, around 20 young people answered the invitation of Sister Mary Our Lady of Peace Villanueva, S.S.V.M., to serve the men who come to the community center that is connected with neighboring Transfiguration parish.
The volunteers brought with them food donated by their families, much of which was home-cooked, and then served a family-style dinner to the men who came to the center.
“It was fun helping those people who needed help,” said volunteer Francisco Jose Nuñez, 13. “I helped them end their day well.”
These volunteers are one of many groups who come to help South Side. Javier Bosque, executive director, said he asks the parishes around the area to help with bringing food every year from November to April. Each parish is assigned at least one week. During that week, individual ministries from that parish take one day.
Bosque said this is one of the many ministries run out of the center. Others include immigration services, a shelter, food pantry, health workshops, services for domestic workers, and social services. The director said budget cuts have forced some of the salaries, including his own, to be eliminated, making it more difficult to continue to provide these services. However, he said all services are continued due in part to the generosity of volunteers and donors.
As part of their volunteer experience, Bosque gave the young people a tour of the homeless shelter. This provided the youth a glimpse into the life of the people they were helping.
“I think this was a worthwhile experience (for the youth) because they realize how much they have to be thankful for,” said Mother Jesús Doliente, S.S.V.M., who accompanied the group. “In our world people don’t want to show the reality of suffering. This forces (the youth) to face reality.”
She said this volunteer opportunity allowed the youngsters to see the face of Jesus in those who are suffering.
Volunteer Gabriella Espinal, 17, said the experience of serving was beneficial for both the men who ate at the community center and for the volunteers.
“It made me think that I wanted to help more people and give to people who don’t have what they need,” she said.
Sister Mary Our Lady of Peace said South Side afforded the youth in her ministry an invaluable experience.
“It’s good for them to see for themselves that they are needed and to get to see outside of the box – so they can see that they can help here in the heart of Williamsburg,” she said.
To learn more about South Side Community Center, call 718-782-8181 or visit 280 Marcy Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211.