With a little help from their friends in the community, Jersey City nonprofits continue to provide services to local residents impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The city has dozens of nonprofits — in areas ranging from the arts to youth services to the environment — including St. John’s Lutheran Church Food Pantry, the York Street Project, and the Sharing Place Food Pantry to name just a few. Working under new restrictions brought by the coronavirus, they have had to change how they deliver their services, but like so many other Jersey City nonprofits affected by Covid-19, they continue to soldier on.
At St. John’s food pantry in The Heights, volunteers come in to bag groceries under social-distancing restrictions. They wear face masks and protective gloves as they sort canned goods and other food donations. Local residents reach out to Pastor Mona Fitch-Elliot and Food Pantry Director Rose Davis wanting to volunteer, but both women say they have to turn them away because of social distancing in tight spaces.
St. John’s Church receives weekly food donations from the Community Food Bank of Jersey City and Target. Local residents give food and make monetary donations through the church’s website.
“We get calls for food every day,” Davis says. “This month, we had a ‘grab and take’ with social distancing. We put pastas in the bag, canned soups in the bags, tuna, water and toilet paper. We had 180 families come by.”
“We’re doing more than we normally do,” Pastor Mona adds. “People are not able to get to the store. People are out of work, their children are home from school. College students that are home, they’re eating more. The need is much greater, so we’re giving out more food.”
Helping Women and Children
York Street Project in Paulus Hook serves up to 500 families each year in its programs like St. Mary’s Residence and the Nurturing Place.
“It’s a landmark in the community,” Director of Development Christine Perez says. The organization oversees a boarding house for low-income women, and community-based housing for families with single moms trying to move from homelessness toward permanent housing.When Covid-19 hit Jersey City, Perez says the nonprofit didn’t have enough food to feed the women and children in its care. Volunteer Coordinator and Community Liaison Nelly Tabora took action by posting a request for donations on Facebook. The result was amazing, Tabora said.
“We had to quarantine 25 families with children and babies with as little room as possible,” Tabora says. “We used to eat communally in our boarding house with 44 women, but now everything has to be individually packaged. We had to turn to the community and the community stepped up.”
Donations poured in from Jersey City residents, and Tabora speaks warmly of the generosity shown by local personality Chicpea, whose website highlights local groups and events. Tabor says Chicpea helped mobilize friends to raise $17,000 for food for York Street Project.Another resident organized a toy drive for the children living there.
“Out of crisis comes a lot of heroes,” Tabora says.
Helping Struggling Workers and the Newly Unemployed
St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church near Journal Square runs the Sharing Place Food Pantry, which provides groceries for about 200 Hudson families.
“People come from all over the county,” Pastor Jessica Lambert says. We are receiving phone calls all day, every day from people who are in a food emergency. I would say all of the new people we had last month were newly unemployed Uber drivers and wait staff at restaurants. Most of the people we serve are people who are working; they just cannot make ends meet.”
Pastor Lambert, who has been pastor of St. Paul’s for 13 years, says the Sharing Place distributes food on the third Saturday of every month.
“We have a core of volunteers, about 15, who are there consistently every month,” he says. “Some are church members, many of them are community members. We are known as a pantry that’s reliable and trustworthy.”
Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the church office closes during food distribution, which takes place in the church parking lot. Pastor Lambert and her crew make sure everyone stays the requisite six feet apart.
The Sharing Place receives most of its food donations from the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, but local businesses and companies have been donating to the pantry as well.
“Food banks are suffering, too,” Pastor Lambert says. “We don’t know what we’ll be receiving from the food bank, but we will give away everything we have.”
For more info on those Jersey City nonprofits highlighted in this article
St. John’s Lutheran Church Food Pantry: www.Stjohnsjerseycity.net; 201-798-0540
York Street Project: www.yorkstreetproject.org; 201-451-9838
The Sharing Place: www.thesharingplacenj.org; 201-963-5518
For further information on the effect of Covid-19 on Jersey City, visit Jersey City Times’ News Section.
Header: Courtesy York Street Project