Nov. 30, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
A local community-based non-profit is making an urgent appeal for donations so it can take advantage of a $10,000 challenge matching grant and help local residents in need.
Sunnyside Community Services, which puts on a wide range of essential programming for individuals of all ages, has also been supporting hard-hit families’ get through the coronavirus pandemic and say the demand for food and cash assistance has never been greater.
Staff and volunteers have been distributing non-perishable food items from its center, located at 43-31 39th St., since April and they regularly deliver food to Woodside Houses.
The non-profit has also disseminated around $500,000 to help hundreds of people pay for essential goods and services.
SCS was expected to shut down its food operations this month but was given a lifeline last week when it received a $10,000 challenge matching grant that will go towards paying for emergency food relief. The grant is being offered by FJC: A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, a Manhattan-based public charity that will match donations made to the group before Dec. 31.
Monica Guzman, Director of Development at SCS said that the grant comes at a time when its food lines have been getting longer while donations to the group have been dwindling.
“Keeping up with the demand for food has been a struggle and the need is just so great,” Guzman said.
Guzman said that SCS have distributed around 9,500 packages of food between its two sites this year. The food was donated by an array of private foundations, non-profits, local restaurants, mutual aid societies along with Fresh Direct and the Queens Borough President’s Office. SCS have also sourced food via a USDA grant.
However, Guzman said that SCS has been forced to scale back its food distribution operations because its donations have been greatly reduced as a result of the economic crisis.
The center was typically open every Monday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. throughout the pandemic but now only opens on Mondays. Guzman said that people begin lining up for food before 9:30 a.m. – even if it’s raining.
SCS has also been helping residents suffering economic hardship with cash assistance to help pay rent and utility bills, Guzman said.
She said that SCS disseminated $506,000 to more than 620 residents through donations from the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the Gerstner Family Foundation, the New York Community Trust and Robin Hood Foundation.
A large portion of the assistance money was earmarked for undocumented immigrants who do not qualify for other forms of government aid such as unemployment insurance, Guzman said.
However, like its food donations, its cash donations have also dried up and there are now more than 660 people on a waiting list looking for financial assistance.
Judy Zangwill, Executive Director at SCS, said the situation is the worst she has seen in her 30 years working in social services.
Zangwill is urging community members and businesses to come together and try to match the grant which would cover the cost of emergency food relief through Christmas and into the New Year.
“People are dealing with so much including the loss of loved ones and now they have to add hunger into the mix,” she said.
Zangwill said that the current crisis is only the tip of the iceberg and expects the situation to deteriorate. She is also calling on elected officials to do more to address the situation.
“I fear it’s going to be the worse after the pandemic and then we will see the real consequences, it’s a frightening thought,” Zangwill said.
“I’m worried that as people become permanently unemployed and eviction moratoriums run out that people will fall behind the cracks.” “I’m so concerned,” she said.
Financial donations to SCS can be made by clicking on this link.