By Jessica Easthope
Since the pandemic began the Holy Innocents Food Pantry in East Flatbush, Brooklyn has fed more than 34,000 people, but the coronavirus posed unexpected challenges for its volunteers, like a shortage of PPE.
“One place actually told me you’re not an essential service so we can’t give it to you,” said Joseph Grannum, the Executive Director of the pantry.
Joseph said that before the pandemic most of his volunteers were over 65. When he couldn’t get his hands on masks for them, he was forced to make a heartbreaking call: he shut down the pantry for the month of April.
“It did pain me, but I always believe God has a plan for everything,” he explained.
Little did he know, God did have a plan that would change the pantry’s entire operation, it started with a call from Clyde Cole.
“When it comes to the fraternity and how we do things, service is a very important part of that,” said Cole, who serves as the Social Action Chairman for the Epsilon Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
Clyde said the need was eye-opening. Though new COVID-19 cases and deaths are going down, many who were left unemployed by the virus may never return to work.
“People are in a position where they have to think about where their next meal is coming from because of joblessness,” he added.
The fraternity brothers volunteer at the pantry twice a week. They help sanitize, unload deliveries, pack bags and sort through food. They said as outrage over George Floyd’s death is expressed across the country, for them, this is their protest.
“Getting yourself out of your bed every morning to make sure these people have food to eat, and they see a smiling face and someone that resembles them doing work in their community is really how we protest and show our community we care,” said Omega Psi Phi brother Deion Hicks.
The brothers say they won’t let their frustration over Floyd’s death distract from their work in the community.
“We have elected to respond to this issue, our entire, our fraternal lives as well by doing service,” said Clyde.
Through helping their neighbors, the brothers of Omega Psi Phi believe their calls for justice will always be heard.