They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but this Saturday one local non-profit organization planned to turn that saying on its head by providing free lunch – and more – for Hudson County families in need.
Dvine Konektion Community Development Corporation scheduled the launch of its Community Food Pantry, which was created to serve the communities of Guttenberg, North Bergen, Union City, Weehawken, and West New York, for Oct. 2, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at 5516 Jefferson St. in West New York.
Families facing financial difficulty were welcomed to receive groceries and other supplies such as diapers and baby wipes for those who have infants or toddlers.
Additionally, local organizations were scheduled to be on hand Saturday to assist with services and several local restaurants donated warm meals for attendees.
“We want to see our community rise.” – Tania Fuentes
But it doesn’t just end with a one day event, they said. This is something they hope to continue monthly, and perhaps even more frequently, to help those in need get back on their feet.
Aiming to lower poverty, raise hope
Founder and president of Dvine Konektion Tania Fuentes, who is also a pastor at Love of Jesus Family Church, said she was moved to action when she heard a startling statistic at a community organization’s board meeting.
One in four children in Hudson County is living below the poverty line, she said, the highest rate of child poverty in New Jersey.
While some parts of Hudson County may be gleaming examples of opulence and wealth even during tough economic times, Fuentes said that’s not true for the majority of the community.
“There are people that are really in need and hurting,” she said.
To meet those needs, Dvine Konektion decided to “be part of the solution” and create the food pantry as a way to bridge the gap for families who are trying to make ends meet but need a boost.
The goal is that by alleviating part of the cost of groceries, some families may be able to pay their bills this month.
And, at the very least, she hopes they’ll see that people are there to help, and derive a glimmer of hope that they’ll be able to make it.
“That’s our passion, our heartbeat,” said Fuentes. “We want to see our community rise.”
Volunteers Jenice Durham and Maria McGuire took on the task of compiling lists of potential donors and hitting the streets to gather the help needed to create the pantry.
Several local businesses, from “mom and pop” shops to large franchises, offered help in the form of in-kind donations, gift cards, and cash.
“There have been a lot of open doors for us,” said Durham. “The community seems really interested in helping.”
The desire to help spread, by word of mouth, quickly throughout the community.
Target and Home Depot in North Bergen pitched in donations for the renovation of the pantry space and food establishments like local Cuban restaurant El Unico and nationwide chains Applebee’s and Panera Bread offered to provide warm meals to the guests on the day of the event.
Employees from Kohl’s in Secaucus volunteered to be on hand and help out on the day of the event.
Even a neighbor walking by the site one day wondering what was going on wound up donating money to the cause and rallying neighbors to do the same.
Living on a prayer
The Community Food Pantry is being housed in a 2,000 square-foot space donated by the Love of Jesus Family Church.
For now, the grocery handouts (known as “Bags of Love”) will be done on a monthly basis, though volunteers hope that soon they will be able to offer more food more often to the community.
Aside from the generous donations from many businesses and individuals throughout the area, there will be another very special component to the monthly food pantry – volunteers from the church will also be on hand to provide counseling and prayer.
This kind of help is something Fuentes and Durham said struggling families need the most. They often get calls at the church simply requesting that someone pray for a special situation.
“Our pantry is going to be very unique,” said Durham.
In addition, the North Hudson Community Action Corporation’s Mobile Health Unit will provide free blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol screenings. Representatives from DYFS and WIC will also be onsite to answer questions about additional assistance that may be available.
All services will be available in both English and Spanish.
For more information, call (201) 617-4484.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Give others a reason to give thanks
The next food pantry event is scheduled to take place on Nov. 21, which is the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Dvine Konektion is hoping for a great turnout of donations, volunteers, and support prior to that date to make it a great one for families struggling during the holidays.
To offset the costs related to the food pantry and to keep it stocked with food, Dvine Konektion welcomes monetary donations as well as donations of non-perishable food and baby items.
Grocery store gift cards are also welcomed.
Donations are accepted at 611 56th St. in West New York between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Donations are tax deductible.
For more information, call (201) 617-4484.