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Uniting to feed hundreds in Bellmore

Hundreds of meals donated during St. Francis, Carroll's Kitchen charitable feast

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Last Sunday, hundreds of hungry families went home with meals in hand after a quick pit stop at St. Francis Episcopal Church in North Bellmore. Five hundred of those meals fed families in need, for free.

The event was the first collaboration between St. Francis clergy and congregants and the staff of Carroll’s Kitchen, a Suffolk-based nonprofit that opened a kitchen in Bellmore late last year. The two organizations are located less than a mile apart, giving Ryan Carroll, the nonprofit’s owner, a perfect opportunity to start coordinating events, he said.

“They popped in, said, ‘We have a farm,’ and I said, ‘Awesome, let’s work together,’” Carroll said.

“We gave them a tour of the church and immediately started dreaming of what we could collaborate on,” said Brother Chris McNabb. He noted that the kitchen’s work to help those in need mirrors the church’s mission: “Feeding hungry bodies and hungry souls.”

Carroll’s Kitchen volunteers, along with barbecue experts from the Massapequa Pitmasters Facebook group, spent the morning preparing dishes of baby back ribs, coleslaw, cornbread and mac ’n’ cheese. Meals were also sold for $20 to help support the initiative.

Tables were lined up in the St. Francis parking lot to form a drive-through, and at 1 p.m., cars started rolling in. Guests could also pick up eggs and honey from the Garden at St. Francis, non-perishable goods, toys and pet food.

This collaboration will not be the last between St. Francis and Carroll’s Kitchen. Carroll had been searching for a spot to support bigger events, he said, and dreams of hosting to-go giveaways or brunches and lunches inside the church in the future, once it’s safe to do so.

“I’m just amazed at their creativeness — they’re giving us energy at the church,” McNabb said of the nonprofit’s volunteers. “We feel grateful to be using our resources as well — we have this big property, so let’s use it, and let’s use it to help people.”

Congregant Jennifer Henning regarded the partnership as a match made in heaven — pun intended. “We’re all in the same business of helping those that are food insecure,” she said.

The Garden at St. Francis — a small plot of land behind the church that’s home to a chicken coop, two commercial beehives and rows of fresh produce — helps feed dozens of families in the area annually through the Bellmore-Merrick Community Cupboard.  Their farmstand will open later this year.

“Everybody’s helping each other — the way it’s supposed to be,” Henning said.