As we have been providing emergency meals throughout the city, we have gotten to know so many NYC based organizations working hard to provide services and feed their community. One of these great organizations is HeartShare St. Vincents Services. Through one of our mobile distribution routes, we have been delivering meals to one of their sites at Marlboro Houses in Gravesend, and created a growing partnership with this wonderful community organization!
Who are they? Heartshare St Vincent’s has been around for 150 years, working to equalize opportunities for those who need it most. They pride themselves on helping the most vulnerable New Yorkers all the time, but during the COVID crisis, they have expanded their mandate to feed folks in need. Today we would like to tell the story of just one site, The Marlboro Houses in Gravesend, Brooklyn, and their staff, and how they transformed their roles to better serve their community during these unprecedented times.
What are they doing? At the Marlboro Houses, during normal times, Joseph Imeduglia and his staff of five run an after school program. They host school aged children from 3-6pm, and then from 6-9pm, open their doors to young adults as a resource for career counseling, GED studies, and recreational activities. When COVID hit, and the team realized they wouldn’t be seeing their constituents in person for a while This mobilized quickly to develop some zoom curriculum in order to continue their education programs, but they knew their families were going to need more than an occasional online class. So, Joe decided to transform their space into a pop-up food pantry. They started on April 6th with 50 Red Rabbit meals, sponsored by Coney Island Prep Charter, and saw their needs increase to 150 meals a week later. After three weeks, they were serving 325 Red Rabbit meals a day, in addition to the other 1300 meals that were donated by other organizations, like the Campaign Against Hunger, Best Buy for Hunger, and a few local bakeries in the neighborhood. Lines started early in the morning, and daily distribution lasts for 4-5 hours. To date, Joe and his crew have distributed 37,000 Red Rabbit Meals sponsored through Coney Island Prep.
How are they doing it? One of the best things about this partnership is that Joe is a trusted community leader. He knows exactly how many kids are a part of families, which grandma needs an extra loaf of bread, and which teenager can eat a whole watermelon in the course of an afternoon. He has also hustled to solicit each donation. Heartshare’s funds go directly to paying Joe’s teams, who would have been furloughed if it weren’t for their efforts to create this community resource. Heartshare’s afterschool programs are city-funded Cornerstone Programs, and their summer funding was cut in April, once the city mandated that there weren’t going to be any large gatherings over the summer. Joe and his team (in addition to Coney Island Prep,Red Rabbit, and the residents of Gravesend) were biting their nails as the city debated line items on the budget, down to the wire on June 30th. The votes are still pending, but it looks like Cornerstone and Joe’s Heartshare team will be refunded, and will be able to continue their incredible service to the community throughout the summer!