The Christ Lutheran Church in Fresh Meadows is inviting the community to collect bags of groceries at its first food pantry event to serve families in need during the pandemic.
On June 5, residents are welcomed to stop by the church, located at 188-12 73rd Ave., from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., to pick up bags of food containing grits, rice, chicken, salmon, mixed vegetables and non-perishable items.
For their first event, the church will be taking a survey of fresh food items residents would want to eat, rather than giving them something that they are not likely to eat, said Candace Singh, president of the Christ Lutheran Church Board.
“It’s really important and valuable that we are serving this function,” said Candace Singh, president of the Christ Lutheran Church Board. “We’ve had to visit other church food pantries, and on a slow day, 150 people may show up, but you can’t deny the impact of 150 people supplying them with much-needed food.”
The Christ Lutheran Church’s congregation is made up of people from many diverse backgrounds, such as Guyanese, Trinidadian, Jamaican, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and Caucasian, according to Singh, who has been a longtime member of the church.
Originally, the parish drew its membership from German and Scandinavian roots and later attracted people from many different ethnic backgrounds, reflecting the diversity of Queens itself. Today, its parishioners hail from a multitude of countries on five continents, and from all over the U.S., according to its website.
When the coronavirus hit New York City last spring and churches — among other institutions — were closed to help limit the spread of the virus, it was difficult to keep the church afloat, Singh said.
“Pre-pandemic, our investment adviser went bust — all of the money we had invested had disappeared and we were a few months away from the funds running out, and then COVID hit. We had to shut down the church for several months,” Singh said. “Fortunately, we were able to apply for loans to get some relief, and we also sold the parsonage, the house that the pastor lived in.”
While the average age of their congregants are 60 years old and up, many were uncomfortable with using Zoom or felt intimidated by technology, Singh said.
“They just preferred to have an in-person experience,” Singh said. “We experimented with Zoom for a board meeting, but the older folks weren’t comfortable with that medium, so we had to find a way to worship indoors but responsibly.”
While government regulations were lifted after a few months, according to Singh, the church held small indoor gatherings, following social distancing guidelines. Now, as more people are being vaccinated and the government is lifting restrictions on the use of face coverings outdoors, Singh said they are looking forward to one day having an indoor service without masks, as the COVID numbers remain low.
As people have been struggling with food insecurity due to unemployment during the pandemic, Singh said it was important to host the food pantry sooner rather than later. In the past, the church would donate canned goods to other organizations, but this is the first event where they are interacting with residents and hope to make it a monthly event.
Since the church couldn’t afford a full-time pastor, for the past six months, they had to improvise with a temporary pastor who had a relationship with other churches that donated several hundred pounds of food for their event.
“Once we establish that there is a demand for the pantry, we will be able to apply through government programs to supply us with the funds for food for future events on a regular basis,” Singh said.
According to Singh, it’s not just about keeping people alive and fed, but also seeing people from diverse cultures involved in serving a diverse community, while indirectly helping to heal the current racial divide.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about humanity, and our differences are only skin deep, and everyone bleeds the same blood,” Singh said.