During the COVID-19 pandemic, Reaching Out Community Services has kept on going strong, and there are no signs of it slowing down.
Thanks to donations from individuals and organizations, the Bensonhurst food pantry has remained open to provide food and supplies for people in need.
Founder Tom Neve is grateful that the pantry has been able to stay open.
“Reaching Out has been a food program for the last three decades, but in the last three months it’s been phenomenal in the amount of families and people hoping for food relief and security,” he said. “As many know, a lot of people aren’t working or won’t be able to return to work because a lot of these businesses have either closed or are slow to open because they don’t need as many people. We have rearranged our whole organization, providing a necessary distribution process to help as many families as possible.”
Neve added orders electronically because lines were around the block and a fair factor was needed.
“If I help you today, don’t expect to come back today or tomorrow,” he said. “We want to help the needy, not the greedy. Temporary COVID-19 cards [are provided] so people can come bi-weekly so we can see how we can handle this. You’re talking about thousands of people. We were able to kick that off. It’s working very well.”
The operation inside is done to get the donations ready for people who are pre-registered in the program.
“Everything is obviously done outdoors so this way we can keep everything safe and sound and do things expeditiously,” he said. “We are also providing these healthy food boxes as well, compliments of the Food Bank for New York City, along with City Harvest providing that as well. We don’t just hand out a little bag of food. We are trying to help a family as best as possible. We still have a line around the block and all of these families are pre-registered.”
Neve also complimented everyone involved with the pantry.
“We have a great staff and a handful of volunteers who have been doing a phenomenal job,” he said. “We are so thankful to everyone who has been making an online donation. Believe me. It really helps. We have put so much into this and there is so much more to go, but we are so grateful to foundations. It’s been those who helped make it work along with us to keep the good going.”
He added that some foundations have been phenomenally helpful, but they didn’t want him to take note of it yet because they’ve been hit with a calamity of requests.
“Everything has been done safely and thank God we have no issues here with everyone,” Neve said. “We are legally keeping distance and wearing face masks. We just got a delivery from City Harvest again today.”
Councilmember Justin Brannan has lent a helping hand, securing more than 1,000 masks along with alcohol and hand sanitizer through the American Chinese Empowerment WeChat Group.
“In the greatest city in the world, no one should ever go hungry,” said Brannan. “During this unprecedented time, the COVID pandemic has led to a hunger pandemic. Millions of people are seeking help from food banks and organizations like Reaching Out for the very first time. Before COVID, it was estimated that around 1 million New Yorkers were food insecure. Now we think the number is around 2 million or more. Reaching Out has been absolutely critical throughout this pandemic and has worked around the clock to make sure nobody goes to sleep hungry. Reaching Out does amazing work during normal times but the work they’ve been doing during COVID has been nothing short of extraordinary.”
As long as the funds are there, Neve and company will continue to provide for the community.
“We are so thankful to anyone that made online donations,” he said. “We get the day over with, redo, restock and do the whole thing all over again. It keeps us busy but thank god for another day. I’m glad things are getting a little better with the coronavirus but we have much more to go.”