By Jessica Easthope
On the frontlines of the pandemic along with first responders is Catholic Charities, the agency feeding the communities most in need. Across the country, the agency has given out more than $400 million worth of assistance, the impact of that help has been priceless.
Debbie Hampson the Senior Director of Community Health and Wellness for Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens says the pandemic is putting her team to the test.
“I was on our 9/11 disaster team and our Hurricane Sandy disaster relief team so I’ve seen disasters but I think in a way this is the worst one because it’s affected people across the country,” Hampson said.
From April until the end of June, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens held 11 pop-up food pantries across the Brooklyn Diocese.
The agency gave out more than 400,000 meals and served more than 45,000 people.
“My staff and our volunteers were willing to go out and be that frontline, giving out that food to people, they’re putting their health and their families health at risk by doing that but the need was so great,” said Hampson.
During the height of the pandemic the agency’s team grew from just a handful of people to nearly 150 volunteers, help they say they couldn’t do without.
“People come forward to help us, we couldn’t do this alone with our teams, we’ve had the Knights of Columbus, Ladies of Charity, people who want to help out their community,” said Richard Slizeski, the Senior Vice President for Mission for Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens.
Slizeski says donations are keeping the agency going. In addition to the pop-up food pantries, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens is seeing a 1000 percent increase at the 20 food pantries it runs year-round. Slizeski says when they were feeding people who thought they would never be at a food pantry, the agency’s true mission came into play.
“Part of our mission is we recognize the dignity of every single person and part of that dignity is to be able to live and feed your families and we’re walking with people on that journey,” Slizeski said.
Pandemic or not, for Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, the work is never done.