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Courtesy Brent O'Leary
More than 65 volunteers off-loaded a tractor trailer filled with produce destined for food pantries across western Queens.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to permeate across the borough in late March, a grassroots group of volunteers mobilized to feed families in need in Woodside and Sunnyside.

More than two months later, the collaboration of local civic associations, religious groups, community leaders and residents continue to cater to specific needs in the neighborhoods by providing meals and helping to stock food pantries in the area.

On Thursday, June 4, the Woodside/Sunnyside Community COVID-19 Relief Group was resupplied when a tractor-trailer arrived at Skillman Avenue and 46th Street. More than 65 volunteers began to unload more than 1,400 boxes of fresh produce after the group’s co-founder, Brent O’Leary, was able to coordinate the effort.

Brent O’Leary hands off a 30-pound box of fresh produce to fellow community leader Ty Sullivan.

“An old friend connected me with a farm in Maryland who said they were willing to give me all the boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables that I am willing to pick up for free,” O’Leary said. “They are paid for by the U.S. government under the USDA Farm to Family Program. I just needed to arrange transportation.”

O’Leary was able to find a truck driver who was willing to do so at a reasonable price. He drove to Maryland and filled up his 53-foot truck. When the truck arrived in Sunnyside, the 65 volunteers from the Mosaic Church, the Woodside Sunnyside Runners Group, the Steamfitters Union and community leaders Ty Sullivan and Eddie Avila formed a human chain and unloaded the 1,395 boxes of produce into a staging area provided by The Skillman, a restaurant on 46th Street and Skillman Avenue.

Much of the produce is being distributed at the Mosaic Church at 46-01 43rd Ave. and Woodside on the Move at 51-23 Queens Blvd.

More of the produce was directed to other food pantries such as Esperaza de Vida in Maspeth and the Mutual Aid Societies of Ridgewood and other locations in western Queens.

O’Leary, who serves as president of the Hunters Point Civic Association in Long Island City, announced his run for City Council last year. He is hoping to replace Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is term-limited out in 2021.

“In these difficult times, it was an amazing and uplifting experience to see so many groups and people come together and work hard to help out those in need,” O’Leary said.

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