You are reading

Op-Ed: Sunnysiders Doing Good Work- A Sunnyside Reformed Church COVID Diary

SRC Greencycle (Photo: N.Margetson)

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.

Sunnyside Reformed Church (Facebook)

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

email the author: [email protected]


Click for Comments 

Pastor Neil and the church: you bring out the best in us. God bless you! You’ve done so much for this neighborhood.

Sunnyside Resident

Please contribute a few $$$ or donate by check to the church to keep it running for another 100 years with all the programs they doing.


Limit the amount of things the people can take. You got ladies acting like voucher and families loading stuff into BMW cars.


A lot of people are moving out of NYC. And many people are giving things away for free instead of throwing it in the trash. At least all the unemployed people staying behind will now have the time to redesign stuff in their free apartments. I picked up two free a/c’s in july and used them. But now i am scared to open my electric bill.


We escaped Sunnyside/NYC after having lived in NYC since birth (1950’s). We would never have thought it could get worse than Dinkins, but then DeBlasio showed up. R.I.P. NYC.


I know you said it is very Jesus. Must we be Christian to get free stuff? Must we be poor to get free stuff? Can I just come and get free stuff? Thank you Pastor.


Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

LaGuardia Community College receives federal funding to expand vocational training for the unemployed

LaGuardia Community College recently received more than $400,000 in federal funding to enhance and expand vocational training for underemployed New Yorkers in a city that is still working to recover from COVID-19 pandemic-induced job loss. The support was secured by U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and former Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.

LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams explained that the school lost nearly a quarter of its students at the height of the pandemic due to the economic effects of the lockdown on low-income Queens households.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

Raga sworn in as first-ever Filipino American elected to the state Legislature

More than 300 community members attended the historic inauguration of Assemblyman Steven Raga as the first Filipino American elected to office in New York state.

Many who attended the swearing-in event at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park wore traditional and cultural attire to the event at the building that once housed the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations from 1946-50 until its current home in Manhattan became available for the world body.