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Power to the people

Collection nets nearly 600 boxes of food for pantry in Freeport

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The evening of April 10 was filled with uncertainties in the Hallam home, as Rob and Mary Hallam tried to fall asleep the night before their annual Moving Day celebration, when they planned to haul thousands of donated food items from their home in Lynbrook to the Long Island Council of Churches food pantry in Freeport. 

“What if the rain doesn’t stop tomorrow? What happens if too few people show up to help? What happens if too many show up when we’re trying to social distance?” 

As these thoughts kept the Hallams awake, the couple, who attend the Community Presbyterian Church in Malverne, kept their faith that somehow everything would work out. 

The following morning, about 40 volunteers greeted the Hallams outside their home, ready to kick off the 10th annual People’s February Food Drive Moving Day.  

“It was wonderful to see everyone come out to help,” Rob said. “It shows that there are so many good people out there willing to help others.” 

“We were worried about what would happen, but the turnout was amazing,” Mary said. “Our friends, neighbors, members of the church all came through for us.” 

Moving Day marks the end of the People’s February Food Drive, an event that the Hallams began a decade ago to help stock the LICC’s food pantry.  

Yolanda Murray, the LICC pantry manager, said the People’s Food Drive serves as a necessary lifeline to help the pantry survive the spring and summer. It is one of the largest pantries on the South Shore, serving more than 2,500 people a month from across Nassau County. It saw 210 families a day at the peak of the pandemic, but the volume remains high, at nearly 100 families a day. Murray added that while the pantry previously limited the number of weekly visits that an individual could make, those restrictions have been eased to help those in need. 

“People are still hurting from the effects of Covid,” Murray said. “They’ve lost income, are struggling to pay their rent and mortgages, so they need help.” 

Although the pandemic slowed the food drive, extending it to March, the Hallams said they were grateful they could hold a proper Moving Day after last year’s event was canceled in order to avoid big crowds. 

This year’s Moving Day split volunteers into two groups, one to pack the truck at the Hallams’ home and the other, led by Freeport’s Jeremy’s Ale House, waited to unload the truck at the food pantry. 

The volunteers spread out in multiple lines as they moved the food into and then out of the truck, which was donated by Rob’s employer, Nassau Door & Window. 

The whole operation took less than two hours. 

By the end, the Hallams and the volunteers brought 19,367 food items to the pantry, as well as hundreds of hygienic items.  

While the total number of donated food items decreased this year, the Hallams said it was understandable given the impacts of the pandemic. 

“We got fewer checks from businesses this year, but they’ve been hurting this year,” Rob said. “On the bright side, the number of individual donations went up, and we had 589 boxes of food this year, which was more than last year.”  

While the food drive is officially over, the Hallams plan to collect food year-round to help provide for the pantry. A donation box will still be available at Rob’s office at Nassau Shades & Blinds, at 211 Sunrise Highway in Lynbrook, and the People’s Food Drive GoFundMe and Amazon wish list will remain open for people to donate money or purchase food.  

To donate to the People’s Food Drive GoFundMe, go to bit.ly/3ttmITy.

To shop from the Amazon wish list, visit amzn.to/32iUezX.