The loss of jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic has left millions hungry throughout the world and North Bergen is no exception. Many residents have been left relying on food pantries to eat.
Organizations and establishments are helping communities by providing free food to those who COVID-19 has impacted the most. Hudson County communities have been affected tremendously by the virus, especially those who are undocumented in the country and cannot collect unemployment.
Woodcliff Community Reformed Church located on 7605 Palisades Ave, North Bergen, New Jersey established 100 years ago has been a source of help not only in a spiritual way but also in alleviating hunger during the pandemic by offering free food to the community.
The church is known for its food pantry,members of the community feel grateful that they can come and pick up a bag that helps them feed their families during these uncertain times due to the Coronavirus.
“It’s gratifying to know that the church is here and this is what we’re known for and this is why we’re keeping in mind that more than ever this church needs to be active,” said Isabel Rusell, a deacon at Woodcliff church.
Every first and third Saturday of the month from 8:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M., Woodcliff Community Reformed Church opens its doors to members of the community so they can come by and pick up a food bag handed out by Pastor Greg and the volunteers.
Pastor Gregory Dunlap has been at Woodcliff church for 18 years now.
“The pantry started small with just a few donations and it kind of just grew from there. Now we’re a partner agency with The Community Food Bank of New Jersey. And it has just grown progressively,”
He explained that during the months before COVID-19 got very serious, he would provide food to about 60-75 people a week, however, that number has tripled following March and April, which was when the pandemic was at its peak.
“During the March, April, May time frame that’s when I saw the greatest need. I was literally getting calls every 15 minutes from people looking for food. It was just phenomenal the need and being able to tell folks yes we can help you was a blessing,” said Pastor Greg.
Following the pandemic, the church has seen between 400 and over 500 people come by the church on either the first or third Saturday of the month to get a bag of food. In each bag, there are canned foods, eggs, oatmeal, milk, beans, cereal, and meat.
Ana Quintero, a resident of North Bergen, attended Saturday’s August 15th donations. This was her first time at the food pantry. She said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been very difficult especially at her age but she tries to do the best that she can while taking precautions.
“The food pantry has been great, I feel blessed and I’m going to keep on coming back. It has been very helpful and a blessing,” said Quintero.
The church has partnered with organizations and companies who are willing to donate and provide donations to give out to those community members who need it the most. For example, Target is one of the partnerships Woodcliff church works with.
Russell has also seen a big change in the number of people who come by the church on the first or third Saturday of the month since that pandemic. She explained that all kinds of people in all kinds of situations come by the church. From undocumented immigrants to single moms, and young families of all nationalities and religions.
“It’s very rewarding for me because I feel like I’m blessed. This is to me it’s something that has to happen.”
Win Powers was the original organizer of the food pantry at Woodcliff church 15 years ago.
“The pantry is bringing many people, particularly younger folks who are currently unemployed and haven’t been coming, but now they’re minus a paycheck and the food pantry is helping supplement their living expenses,” said Powers.
Powers said that now over years as an elderly he sees the positive impact the pantry has had on the community. The pantry gave Powers and those who volunteer the opportunity to meet and connect with people who feel the same way about helping their fellow men.
“It’s a blessing, it renews my strength, it gives me energy. It’s not a chore, it’s a blessing and to see people come in need and to be able to help them it’s a wonderful thing,” said Powers.
Chris Brown, a pastor in Kearny, New Jersey, has been volunteering at Woodcliff church since last January. He said that COVID-19 has changed their process when it comes to handing out the bags. Following the social distancing guidelines and making sure they are wearing masks and gloves is very important to them; however, the one thing that has changed is everyone’s passion for helping those who are in need and come by the church every first and third Saturday of the month to receive their food bag.
Pastor Greg explained that community members are asked for identification when they are in line for the food bags however; if a member does not have identification that won’t prevent them from receiving the donation. Identification is asked as a way for the church to keep track. He explained that one positive thing that has resulted because of COVID-19 is the increase in the number of people who have volunteered to help with the distribution of food and most importantly recognizing that there are a lot of people in need.
Pastor Greg said everyone in the community, from organizations to residents are encouraged to donate non-perishable and packaged goods to the Woodcliff church pantry.
People who would like to donate can call Woodcliff church at 201-869-4555. Or for financial contributions, folks can visit their website at www.woodcliff.org and click on the link labeled Online Giving where people can make their online contributions and their help would be greatly appreciated.