Freeport’s Gala Foods Supermarket donated $2,500 worth of gift cards to Our Holy Redeemer Church food pantry in Freeport on May 14 to support local residents in need during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dozens of people — six feet apart to practice social distancing — lined up outside the food pantry, at 37 South Ocean Ave., and down the block to collect boxes of food for themselves and their families. Some also took extra boxes of food for people who are in isolation, organizers said.
Jenny Jorge, vice president of operations at Gala Foods, who was there to donate the gift cards, said she hoped to inspire others to contribute as well.
“Maybe people who are in a good position — who aren’t dealing with some of these financial burdens — can see the work that’s being done right here with so much need, to be able to say, ‘OK, let me see what I can do or what I can give to be able to help people,’” Jorge said.
“The $2,500 is a small contribution to what is really needed, which is for the community to come together and help him collect the food to be able to give out to that line of people outside,” she added, referring to Alfonso Martinez, the human services director for the church, who oversees pantry operations.
Martinez, who thanked Island Harvest for its assistance, said that while the pantry typically served between 20 and 25 families a week before the pandemic, it’s now serving more than 700 families each week.
And while the pantry was only available to Freeport residents, it’s now open to anyone, including residents of neighboring communities like Baldwin, Wantagh and Oceanside.
Martinez was joined by about 10 other volunteers, although there are typically up to 20 people helping out in the pantry. Religious paraphernalia hung on the walls, and the volunteers squeezed through boxes of food and canned non-perishables that were stacked high. More boxes filled the parish gymnasium next door.
To contact Martinez at the food pantry, call (516) 868-8289. It is open every Thursday until around 4 p.m.
“I was normally open Monday to Thursday,” Martinez explained. “Between the hours of 10 and 1, we distributed, and every other time we received donations. Now, we prepare for Thursday, and boom.”
“This doesn’t just happen during a pandemic,” said the Rev. Doug Arcoleo, pastor of Our Holy Redeemer Church. Martinez “puts his blood, sweat and tears into what he does for the church here and for all of the people, all year long.”