Aug. 7, 2020 By Pastor Neil Margetson
This pandemic is supposed to be a time when we’re all staying home, looking out for Number One!
It hasn’t been what you would call an uplifting time. But there’s something going on over at Sunnyside Reformed Church that puts it all in a different context.
Instead of staying home, a whole bunch of people have decided it’s time to get busy helping others – of course while observing all the rules of social distancing, hand washing and face covering!
The way I see it is that it all started with a simple idea. We’d been hearing about the Pop-Up Food Pantries in the neighborhood for a while – it sounded like wonderful work, and badly needed.
At the church, we’re always getting donations of clothing, appliances and toys–and we’ve had a small food pantry for some time. Two of our members – Gretchen Armstrong and Shara Berkowitz – asked me if they could set up some tables around the church on a Sunday after worship, and give some of that stuff away.
It was a no-brainer. I said, Yes, please! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was flat amazed by how many people came out to help – especially how many young people. There were like a dozen or more teenagers running around putting out clothing, talking to people, taking care of business and generally doing a great job.
The other thing was that people were showing up in large numbers and taking items they needed. What a great thing. That was in May and it’s only grown since then. Now we have a whole room full of stuff and people are constantly calling the church to see about donating more.
It has a name now – Sunnyside Church Clothing Greencycle – and it’s there every Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. for donating or gathering. Everything is free, and it’s kind of fun to watch the confusion on the faces as they try to figure out what that means. It’s not complicated. Everything is FREE! Just take what you want.
Once the Greencycle was up and running some other folks came around wanting to use the church basement and kitchen to collect fresh food and then use the food to make and distribute prepared meals.
It sounded ambitious, but what the heck – it also sounded like a good cause.
One of our Deacons – Dawn Alicea – volunteered to work with the group – and now four or five weeks later, they are doing pop-up distribution of fresh cooked meals all around Sunnyside and Woodside.
They are distributing cooked meals and groceries at popup pantry points on Sundays at 1 p.m. at a number of locations– at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard, 61st Street and Roosevelt Avenue, 48th Street and Broadway.
And we’re not talking about a few meals.
If you could only be at the church when they’re loading up the trucks. Endless boxes of food all hot, all
smelling fantastic – all free.
What makes it particularly wonderful is the fact that we’re helping each other in such an organic way. It’s been completely spontaneous and heartfelt.
The young people continue to show up in large numbers to help out, and really it’s become their thing. Sometimes, they even bring instruments and perform live music in the evening on the church lawn. Just fantastic stuff.
In a perfect world our government would be providing adequate relief for everyone during this terrible time. Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear and depend on charity.
But, since so many of us do need help right now, these local efforts are something wonderful that is inspirational as well as helpful. The principle is very simple and very much Jesus. Those who need help get help.
Lastly – and maybe most importantly – I have been joined by my friend Kenny Medrano to begin a new Podcast called: The Divine Spark – News From the Sunnyside, that will feature a more spiritual, more positive take on the world around us.
Kenny is a young organizer from Sunnyside, who recently worked in Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s office. He and I have been friends for a long time and had been talking about a podcast before the pandemic.
Once the pandemic came, the need to hear different voices was obvious. There’ll be interviews, news, theology, philosophy and a good dose of humor. It’ll be listed on iTunes and Spotify for those who want to check it out.
Seeing these incredible young people working together so hard, and so well, and so cheerfully for the greater good, almost makes the constant background worry go away.
God help me, some days I begin to think we might just get through this.
Pastor Neil Margetson is the minister at Sunnyside Reformed Church, which is located at the corner of Skillman Avenue and 48th Street