Unsung Heroes Spend Pandemic Helping to Grow St. Athanasius Food Pantry in Bensonhurst

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, Faith, Food, Food Bank, Youth Ministry

By Emily Drooby

As a youth minister, Kenny Wodzanowski had dedicated his life to helping young people connect with God. However, his job was severely affected when the pandemic started.

“Youth ministry, like every other ministry, shut down during the pandemic there were no gatherings,” he explained.

So, he found a new way to help people and spread the gospel.

“That’s when Monsignor was like, ‘hey Kenny, do you think you can help out because obviously you’re not helping as much with youth ministry as you were before.’ So I came, I came to help out and it just started snowballing,” Kenny said.

A food pantry at St. Athanasius Church. It has been around for years, but the pandemic grew their base of people from about 20 to more than 100 people.

As the base grew, they knew the pantry needed to also. So, braving the coronavirus, Kenny and his team went to work, finding donations, organizing the weekly pantry, really growing this community along with the church’s clergy.

“It’s been a tremendous success. I mean they really work hard stocking the shelves and everything. So, it’s really been a blessing for the neighborhood,” explained the churches parochial vicar, Father Ronald D’Antonio.

While one of their youngest volunteers, Henry Zebeli said, “My favorite part is to help people and give it to them and be happy and say thank you.”

Pandemic heros, who have risked everything to help others because it’s the Catholic thing to do.

Father D’Antonio said, “Knowing that they’re doing God’s work in the community and that it’s active. It’s not just an intellectual thing or a wish, it’s reality.”

While many think the pandemic might be closer to the end than the beginning, the pantry still sees a serious need.

Kenny said, “But the need has definitely stayed high, to my surprise, it has not diminished.”

A need that could now grow more, the church is in a COVID red zone meaning there’s new restrictions to stop the spread including the closure of non-essential businesses and the ending of dining in at restaurants.

But still, Kenny, his team, and church clergy press on bringing much needed hope to this neighborhood.