BENSONHURST — Moving forward despite trying times.
Despite the coronavirus outbreak, Bensonhurst nonprofit food pantry Reaching-Out Community Services has decided to remain open to help underprivileged locals in need of food using a new system of working outdoors.
“We knew there was going to be an issue so we had a choice,” said Founder of Reaching -Out Thomas Neve. “Either we close down which many people are doing or we try to continue our efforts as we have been for the last three decades. We decided to go to stage three, which was to bring it outside and we thought it would be less vulnerable for the staff, volunteers as well as the clients so we developed our computer system to work outdoors so the clients can come. We were doing it earlier this morning as well.”
Neve, his staff and volunteers are trying to keep a positive attitude despite a greater need, not many resources and a new format, but it remains difficult.
“The whole idea now is other than having the over 10,000 families registered, we have people calling off the hooks with the phone calls looking for our services,” he said. “Will we be able to handle the amount of people we have now with a truncated budget and a lack of support? We already cut eight zip codes off months ago because local officials decided not to find interest in what we do. It’s like you wait for the fire to happen and then you build the fire house. Sadly we are telling people we aren’t registering people.”
The group started distributing food outside on Friday, March 13 where many people showed up to fill their orders and as the days have gone by, the nonprofit has experienced challenges.
“As long as we keep the volunteers safe, we are going to have to work outdoors,” said Neve. “It’s not going to be a two weeks thing. It’s going to be months to come so I don’t know if we are going to crash out with food supplies. I’m trying to secure cleaning solutions, masks so I could keep the comfort of the volunteers and staff and I can’t even secure that. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The challenges ahead
Although there is plenty of uncertainty for locals that depend on Reaching-Out, Neve hopes organizations will lend a helping hand.
“The next delivery is going to be Friday so I don’t know what we are going to be capturing from City Harvest funding wise,” he said, adding that he is trying to keep his vision the same, despite the pandemic. “Nothing has been different for the last three decades. We’ve always been helping people going through food insecurity and being financially disadvantaged. Now it’s a different story and it’s more sad because a lot of our clients are seniors and they’re already disadvantaged physically. We were hoping to accomplish a home delivery for seniors with disabilities that can’t come here. Of course that has to be on hold for the moment. I have to find a way to make that happen.”
With the need increasing and resources dwindling, Reaching-Out attempts to remain resilient. A staff member purchased another computer and all personnel were trained to make the outdoor system work.
“It would be very easy for me to say we are closed for the next six months but we decided to stand up tall now that we are needed. It is a time for us to exist just like we did with the hurricane,” he said. “This changes the methods of distribution like never before. Outdoors is challenging. We worked the whole weekend to figure it out.”
Neve is asking that others step up in helping the community.
“Unfortunately we are limited to our resources,” he said. “If I would’ve had the city back us up with all those other members that had the ability to do that when I was crying to them on a regular day. We had to cut eight zip codes. Now it’s worse.”
With extra help or not, Reaching-Out plans on continuing to operate one day at a time.
“For those who want to support something this would be great for them,” he said. “If they want to volunteer it’s a good place. Come check out what we do and that’s it’s actually happening. We aren’t looking for our name on the marquee or the person of the year award. I don’t want any of that. I just want wrong to become right.”
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