Food fight breaks out at St Raphael’s food pantry
By Bill Parry
A public spat has broken out between a Long Island City church pastor and a disgruntled parishioner who claims that a $2,000 donation to the church food pantry vanished.
Patricia Magda, a food-pantry recipient, claimed in a letter published by Woodside Herald that $2,000 worth of food donated by local businesses never made it to the shelves of St. Raphael’s food pantry– as intended. The donation to the 35-20 Greenpoint Ave. church included some high quality food items, according to Magda.
“None of this food was given out to clients (that I could see),” wrote Magda. “Is that quality stuff only for the people who work the pantry and are clients as well? I also never see any of the donated stuff left in the basket at Sunday masses given out, unless it’s for favorite clients – not the women who come in with hungry kids to feed.”
In response, Father Jerry Jecewiz of St Raphael’s Church wrote a letter a week later that was published in the Woodside Herald on Dec. 7 in defense of the food pantry.
“I want to assure all area residents who know about, help or use the Pantry that every item of donated food, whether left in the food baskets in church or collected through community support, is distributed justly to needy persons, and is not stolen by Pantry workers or rerouted, in Ms. Magda’s words, to ‘favorite clients’. These false accusations dispirit our helpers, all of whom are dedicated, unpaid volunteers.”
Richard O’Connor, a pantry volunteer for 14 years, said: “The woman is 100% wrong. What she wrote is so untrue.” He said he was in attendance when the food was picked up from a group of Skillman Avenue restaurants and loaded into the van. Then, one of the Skillman Avenue business owners drove it straight to the pantry, he added.
The Woodside Herald said it regretted printing the letters “because of the controversy it’s caused and time that has been wasted in a negative direction.”
Father Jecewiz said his goal is to protect the image of the food pantry and its 18 volunteers.
“It’s important for me to defend these volunteers who were accused of stealing from our needy clients,” Father Jecewiz said. “They’re here two days a week in all kinds of weather.”
The food pantry has been in operation for 16 years and feeds 1,700 people every month. It depends largely on the generosity of private donors and local businesses sending their overstocked goods.
“I’d hate for any of those donors that help us have second thoughts about what we do here,” Father Jecewiz said. “Silver Cup Studios does a collection for us because one employee noticed a line one day while sitting at a red light. What would they think if they read her letter?”
While O’Connor was not very complimentary of Magda, Father Jecewiz said: “We’re sad this happened, but we won’t treat her any differently: if she needs us, we’re here for her.”