Pantry Director Serves Kindness, Parishioner Runs Outreach Her Family Once Benefitted

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Family, Inspiration, Media, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

When Gerri Cassone heads out of Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Windsor Terrace and across the street to give communion to a homebound parishioner, it’s usually her first stop of many.

Then she’s off back to the church to pack and pack some more. As the director of the church’s food pantry, she makes deliveries to those who can’t pick their bags up.

“For 29 years, I am so blessed to have been part of this outreach program,” Cassone said.

The essentials are in the bags, but Cassone knows better than anyone what these people need beyond food. She used to be one of them.

“I remember having rice and raisins for dinner; they couldn’t afford to put meat on the table, so that was the best they could do,” Cassone said. “You could see the stress on my mother’s face because money was really low.”

For nearly 30 years, Cassone has run the very pantry her family was once a recipient of. As her life unfolded, she never forgot what it was like.

“One year, the bell rang, and it was the food pantry,” Cassone said. They came in with a basket of food, turkey and all. And I remember seeing the relief on my mother’s face. And it was the first time, one of the first times I really understood kindness.”

Today, the food pantry feeds hundreds yearly and helps sustain other local pantries. Cassone operates it the same way it was all those years ago, treating everyone she serves with dignity.

“They’ve had struggles throughout their life,” Cassone said. “Some of them have had addiction problems. So if I can just show someone a little love during the day, I’m going to do it.”

Her life has come full circle, and her deep faith has remained at its core.

“I live by the motto, the greatest exercise for the human heart is to reach down and lift someone,” Cassone said.

Eight years ago, when Cassone’s kidneys failed her, her son gave her a second chance.

“He said to me, ‘Ma, you gave me life; I’m going to give you life,'” Cassone said. “And I’ve been able to do eight additional years of service.”

She’s continued to see her life as a gift, one she never hesitates to share with others.

“I’m going to do it for as long as I can, and I know that God has a purpose, Cassone said. “There’s a reason I’m here.”

The need will always be there, so Cassone keeps packing. She knows she can only do so much. Someone else takes care of the rest.