With many Nassau County residents increasingly experiencing financial troubles and food insecurity, the members of a Baldwin church, in the holiday spirit, gave back to their local community last Sunday.
Patrick and Nathalee Francis, the lead pastors of Impact Church, hosted their second annual Supermarket Sunday event, in which the church covered local families’ grocery shopping bills.
“Everyone’s dietary need is different,” Nathalee said, “so we don’t believe in packing a bag of groceries and giving it to someone . . . It came about for us to do this — for them to come with their shopping list, buy whatever they want for their family, and all we do at the end is just swipe that tab.”
Dozens of volunteers assisting Impact Church were inside Ideal Food Basket, on Merrick Road in Baldwin, helping families shop, bringing their items to the registers and bagging them.
The church, Nathalee said, raised $8,650 this year to cover the bills of nearly 50 local families. Each family was allocated $200, or $250 for larger families.
“They can get whatever they need, and there’s no restriction,” she said. “Even though we allocate $200 per family, if it goes over, we’re still going to pay for it.”
“It’s all about them going inside to just shop, no restrictions, no questions asked,” Patrick said of the families. “It’s just letting them have — especially in this tough time — a wonderful experience for their families. This is the least we can do at this time to kind of alleviate the stress of a lot of what’s happened this season, with Covid and with the economy. We’re really happy to serve.”
The effort not only supported the church’s neighbors, Patrick said, but also bolstered the economy by inviting people to shop local at Ideal Food Basket.
“When the idea came about to do this, it was two-fold,” Patrick said. “It was about helping families and helping the local economy. Also, most importantly for us, just to really be the church. It’s very important for us to be the church, and not just a church in a building, but a church that extends its reach outside of the walls of the church.”
Any remaining funds after the families shopped were given to random shoppers to cover their bills following the event.
Church members noted that the event — as well as the congregation — grew significantly from the year prior.
“Like a mustard seed to an oak tree, we’ve just grown,” said Andrea Anglin, an Impact Church member. “Unbelievable. I mean, we could fit at one table last year.”
And while the Covid-19 crisis has saddened many people, she continued, “it can also bring people together and make them realize the humbleness and the thankfulness and the togetherness. It’s such a unified feeling.”
Last year’s event was different, Nathalee explained, in that food was laid out in a spread and community members were invited to help themselves. But because of the spread of Covid-19, church leaders had to rethink their plans.
“It was the first time we were actually coming inside the supermarket,” she said.
“This is good for the people, this is good for the community, and it’s also good for us,” said Elvia Sanchez, of the supermarket’s managing office, “just to see how the community is supporting us and we are supporting the community. We are together in this and we are going to go through it. We are tough. With this pandemic, I know it has been devastating, but we’re going to go through. And we love to see people happy; we love to see how they are helping the community and they have chosen us to be part of it.”