By Carlotta Mohamed
The Historic St. George’s Church in Flushing will be serving hot meals to members of the community, including immigrants, refugees, and families in need during the 2018 Flushing Community Holiday Dinner, announced Rev. Wilfredo Benitez, rector of the church.
The holiday dinner will take place on Saturday, Dec. 22 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at St. George’s Church located at 135-32 38th Ave.
“Saint George’s Church, in anticipation of the coming Christmas holiday, is pleased to welcome those in need, regardless of creed (or no creed), ethnicity, nationality, language, immigration status, sexual orientation, sex, class status, or anything else that can be used to divide our Flushing community,” said Benitez. “It is in the compassionate spirit of the Christ that we serve all our neighbors. All are welcomed to sit at the table.”
Organizers of the 2018 Flushing Community Holiday Dinner were joined by elected officials Dec. 14 and civic leaders to encourage local businesses and individuals to support the event with donations of canned or dry foods, new or gently used clothing, and funds. (c.)
“As we gather with friends and family to enjoy the holiday season, we look to fully embrace the spirit of the season by providing a free holiday dinner for all,” said City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing). “This event is a great opportunity to give back to the community and enjoy one another’s company, and take part in the true meaning of the holiday season.”
La Jornada, Green Earth Urban Gardens, and the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce will join St. George’s Church to serve hot meals.
There aren’t many food pantries in Flushing for seniors and single families, according to Maureen Regan, founder of Green Earth Urban,
“Hunger and food security are basic needs,” said Regan. “By organizing our Holiday Dinner, we highlight these needs because they should be a birthright for all Americans.”
Roughly 1.2 million New Yorkers — one in seven of the city’s population — live in food insecure homes, according to the advocacy group Hunger Free America.
The national non-profit organization is building a non-partisan, grass-roots membership movement to enact the policies and programs needed to end domestic hunger and ensure that all Americans have sufficient access to nutritious food.
One in five children and 200,000 seniors in New York City do not have enough food to eat.
Last year, 40 percent of the food pantries and soup kitchens in New York City indicated that they were not distributing enough food to meet demand — 35 percent indicated they had to turn people away, reduce the amount of food, or limit their hours of operation, according to Hunger Free America.
This year, the federal government proposed to expand the “public charge” rule, which would bar immigrants who “unduly rely on public assistance” from a path to citizenship if they participate in vital programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly called the Food Stamp Program, according to Hunger Free America.
The federal government has also proposed slashing SNAP by $213 billion over the next 10 years in addition to structural changes that could harm groceries and nonprofits that serve hungry Americans.
La Jornada, a Flushing-based food pantry, will prepare meals at the Holiday Dinner to feed those in the community who otherwise might go hungry.
“For the past four years, La Jornada has been serving immigrants and those who are poor in Flushing,” said Pedro Rodriguez, founder of La Jornada. “Since then, we have seen an incredible increase in the number of people we are serving.”
Rodriguez noted that another important factor about the holiday dinner is to tell the truth about immigrant communities.
“One group comes and begins to succeed, and then gives a hand to the newcomers. That is how this city and country of immigrants have acted: with mercy and grace to our new brothers and sisters who came after them,” said Rodriguez. “This is the real story of Christmas in the immigrant community. So we applaud this group that takes time out of their lives to help those in need in our community.”
Taehoon Kim, president of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, is encouraging local businesses and individuals to celebrate the spirit of the holidays to serve food to their neighbors and breaking bread with all members of the community at St. George’s Church.
Those interested in donating food or money for the event can contact the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-820-5163.
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha