Bayonne Medical Center donated 75 turkeys and all the fixings to the Assumption Church Food Pantry for distribution to needy families for Thanksgiving.
Deacon Bill Giordano, chairman of the food pantry program, said the donation is particularly needed this year.
“We can tell just by the number of people who came to the food pantry last week,” he said. “We had 127 people and they’re coming in from places like Jersey City and Hoboken, too.”
The pantry has been operating out of Assumption Church since 1977 and opens its doors to people about once a month – although people in need can call almost any time and get help, said Giordano, the pantry’s founder.
“We use cash donations to shop for food, and before we open will fill up the shelves.” – Bill Giordano
“We used to give away large packages like this on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter,” he said. “Now we don’t give away on Easter.”
When the pantry first opened, it was envisioned to be open once a week. After a short time, they could only financially open every two weeks. Now the pantry is open once per month.
Packages usually given out when the pantry opens include a box of cereal, three cans of vegetables, boxes of macaroni, a container of sauce, cans of soup, a can of tuna, and odds and ends like tea.
“We’re open that last Saturday of every month,” he said.
The pantry has seen a dramatic increase in those seeking bags of food, approaching 100 bags per month.
“We use cash donations to shop for food, and before we open we fill up the shelves,” Giordano said. “After we open and assemble the bags, the shelves are empty.”
The pantry receives no city, state, or federal grants. Everything it distributes comes as a result of donations from parishioners, individuals or entities such as Bayonne Medical Center.
“We have really good parishioners,” Giordano said. “But we also get donations from people who are not even connected with our church.”
Some of the societies connected with the church, such as the St. Ann’s Society, the Rosary Society and the Golden Agers, are particularly generous, doing food drives that help stock the shelves of the pantry.
The Golden Agers and a private individual recently supplied the pantry with a sorely needed refrigerator and stove.
“People in Bayonne are darned good and they don’t get recognition,” he said.
In distributing the turkeys and fixings donated by BMC, Giordano called people from previous visits to the pantry that he thought might need the gift basket.
“It breaks your heart to hear someone tell me, ‘Thank God you called. I didn’t know what I was going to do for Thanksgiving,’ ” he said.
“We are pleased to support the Our Lady of Assumption food bank and soup kitchen in their efforts to serve the needs of the residents of Bayonne during this very difficult time in our economy, and allow needy families to have a joyous Thanksgiving,” said Dan Kane, president and CEO of BMC.
Soup kitchen is also at Assumption
Any turkeys left over will be used in another food project hosted at Assumption – the soup kitchen, Giordano said.
The Cluster Soup Kitchen at the Assumption Church, which moved over from St. Mary’s Star of the Sea in early 2007, combined efforts from three downtown parishes – St. Andrew's, St. Mary's and Assumption – to help provide a weekly hot meal for those who need them.
The Soup Kitchen was originally located at St. Mary’s School, and was relocated because Assumption was more centrally located in the middle of town and is also handicapped accessible.
Under the watch of Rev. Joseph Barbone, the program has seen a dramatic increase in those being served, rising from a few dozen when first opened to nearly 100 recently.
Many of those served are elderly people, mothers with children, and others who rely on the Meals on Wheels program from Monday through Friday,
Each of the three churches takes turns providing food and cooking services for the soup kitchen every month.
“Their parishioners donate to the kitchen,” Giordano said.
The Assumption Cluster Soup Kitchen and food pantry is one of three ongoing food programs in the city of Bayonne.
Highways Pantry, an arm of Trinity Episcopal Church of Bayonne, also supplies food to needy people and distributes food around the holidays.
Last year, Inserra Shop-Rite and the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation sponsored a food campaign that made holiday food deliveries to people.
“We try to provide a yearly package for the holidays,” said Eleanor Tiefenwerth, executive director of the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation.
This year, the BEOF expects to deliver about 150 packages.
“We coordinate with Assumption and Highways so we’re not delivering to the same people,” she said.
Donations to the BEOF program come from individuals or corporate groups such as ShopRite and Global Terminals.
“A condo association on Avenue A is very generous every food drive,” she said. “The Boy Scouts do a food drive every year.”
For those interested in donating to any of the groups, they can contact the Bayonne Economic Opportunity Foundation, 555 Kennedy Blvd., Bayonne, (201) 437-7222; Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, Avenue C and West 23rd Street, Bayonne, (201) 436-8160; Highways Pantry, 184 Hobart Ave., Bayonne, (201) 858-8653.