PICTURE THE HUB: GIVING TIME

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Christine Green

Parkside community church food pantry

Editor's note:  This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

I'm Christine Green and I volunteer with the Parkside Community Church food pantry.

So I've been volunteering for the food pantry since it started. We've been doing it for almost two years now. We started right at the beginning of the pandemic. Before that, we did have a community dinner once a week and when we could no longer do the cooking and the sit down meal we were trying to find a way to still serve those in the same community and provide food for people who were out of work and needed that sense of community and a little support every week. And one thing led to another and we started a food pantry.

 

I've been volunteering in some capacity pretty much my whole life since I was a teenager. So for me, it's just giving back and serving community is is a natural part of life. And we had already been doing different things within our church. So this seemed a good fit because I do like the idea of supporting the community I live in. But this was also about some food rescue as well. So because a lot of the donations that we get are from restaurants, and grocery stores and other food sources have seconds that would have been thrown away. And now instead of being thrown away and going into landfill, they're being put to good use. And that's important to me too. So being able to partner with those other people and Connex4NPO to get food and healthy food into people's hands was I thought was a good mission.

 

I love that we see the same people every week. And over the course of two years we've gotten to know these families and individuals and they've gotten to know each other. So now every week when we see each other it's a sense of warmth and community and hi how are you? How's your week and how was your holiday and what's going on? And so it's also getting to know people.

 

I think that I really understood how impactful it was when we started to see it grow. And we saw how different groups and organizations and individuals were willing to come together to support each other in order to make this happen. But I also see how our guests that come to the food pantry, start bringing their friends and other people they know so they're spreading the word and then they can help support other people they know that need the help and need that sense of community. So the fact that they feel comfortable enough to do that to to invite other people to come, I felt was definitely a way that it continued to grow.

 

We offer how meals and that happened because the Bergen County Food Insecurity Task Force created a grant at one point during the pandemic to help the restaurants and also to help food pantries. So the grant went to the restaurants. The restaurants, created the food and then the food was then delivered and we were able to just have that distribution every week and that really helped our guests because so many people that we serve are people that it's sometimes hard for them to cook because they might be a single mom who was always rushing around or they are somebody that has a physical disability that makes it very hard for them to get around every day. And just having that pleasure of somebody else cooking for them at once a week. And not having to do that work, just gives them a little reprieve. And so it was such a blessing that we were able to get that grant that we were able to be a recipient of these meals from the restaurants.  When the grant stopped and we realized that people really really were enjoying it we decided, hey, let's see if we can cook. And so last summer when we didn't have the restaurants cooking we got a group of different volunteers who were willing to come on Tuesday mornings and we started cooking the meals. It was a lot of work, but we really enjoyed it. And we learned a lot. And we did that for about three months. And then we were blessed again and the grant came through again and once again the restaurant started doing the cooking and we'll see what happens.

 

To other people that are interested in volunteering I would say that don't just think about it but do it and if you know of an organization, don't wait for somebody to ask you just show up and say how can I help? Because there's always something to be done and there's always something that you can help out with. And there's always a time slot. Like if you say you know, I this is the only time I have we'll figure out a way for that to work.  Come with an open mind and an open heart and remember that whenever you're volunteering, people that you serve are just like you and so get to know the people that you're serving.

 

I think I feel really, you know, proud of our community and Westwood that they have been so supportive of this endeavor. And I'm so thankful for all the volunteers that have come forward because we really have really not lacked in volunteers for the most part. We continually get new people coming in and I'm just thankful.

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