Recently, the New York State Department of Health released a new report, with a staggering statistic: more than 1 in 5 Long Island adults worry about having enough money to buy nutritious meals. And while it is heartbreaking that so many of our neighbors worry about the cost of food, the reality is that food is only one piece of the puzzle for someone struggling to make ends meet.
The excessive cost of housing, heating costs, especially during this extremely chilly winter, gas prices, and healthcare costs also add a heavy burden on a family’s budget. It is certainly challenging to live on Long Island. Many families turn to our Parish Social Ministries to supplement their source of food and for relief to some expenses for their families. The PSM is a partnership between Catholic Charities and the parishes in our Long Island faith community. The ministry is rooted in the gifts of the people of God, enabling those within the parish community to receive spiritual nourishment by serving and supporting those in need. These PSM operate robust and incredibly active programs.
We recently spoke with Katie Spellman, Coordinator of the PSM of St. John the Evangelist, Center Moriches. Here is what she shared about the program at this parish. “We provide services across many avenues. We started with a food pantry in the 70s, and then a thrift shop. We are always looking to add programs. We have a Street Ministry that goes to the railroad station in Shirley serving folks on the street with hot meals, and clothing. There is a community of people who come for the welcome and love that volunteers share. We have a Chicken Ministry, so we get fresh eggs for the food pantry. The Garden Ministry, known as Heaven’s Harvest grows tomatoes and green, eggplant and cucumber beans, radishes, and summer squash. The plants all started as seedlings and the harvest will go into early October.
We have a monthly community hot meal dinner; volunteers make meals at home and people come to share this meal. This builds community and hospitality by bringing people together and allows volunteers to share talents in different ways.
The needs have grown immensely in the last year, there has been a continual need for food. The increase was so great that we had to tighten our parameters to have food for everyone. In the pantry, clients can serve themselves to get exactly what they want. We can never have enough food. One night we served 37 families come to the food pantry in one hour. With the high price of food, the needs in the community are growing especially in our Spanish community so we try to get bilingual volunteers to help these families.
Our goal for the PSM is to recruit more volunteers and it is an opportunity for volunteers to share their gifts. There are so many options for people such as feeding chickens, picking vegetables, sorting clothes, stocking shelves, to be in front of people or behind the scenes. We just ask that people be kind and respectful and to see Jesus in everyone they meet and to live their faith.
The PSM has helped me to grow in my faith. In 2018 there was a fire in the church, and I helped set up and take down seats for mass. After this task was complete, I asked our priest, ‘What else I can do,” so I helped out in the arts and environment group. Our parish had an open house for ministries, so I learned about different programs. It has brought me back to church besides going to weekly mass.” After I had a change in my personal employment at the time, I had an opportunity to take this position in the PSM. The PSM has taken my faith outside of the Church;, it’s an opportunity for me to dig deeper into faith and think of the humble servant. “It’s a gift for me to work here – it feeds my soul.”
We also spoke with Christian, PSM Case Worker of St. John the Evangelist, Center Moriches PSM. He shared the following with us: “The PSM helps these families with a wide range of services, providing financial assistance, counseling, clothing, food, and access to ministries that provide additional clothing and food. “We do everything and anything here to help our client. The needs of the community are great. The pandemic has had a dramatic effect on poverty. With the expiration of the eviction moratorium, we have had a huge spike in rental assistance needs and evictions. Shelters do not have enough room for people, so they become homeless and have health issues. There is an inability for people to provide themselves and their families with necessities, such as food, clothing, and shelter and the real needs are greater – it’s a macro systemic problem. When people are helped, they are revitalized in their faith. The maintenance of faith is needed. If the PSM had more funds, we could help more people.
If you or anyone you know needs assistance, please seek out the assistance of your local Parish Social Ministry.