I'm sitting here early this morning just reflecting on this past week. It's been like no other week I've experienced in my life. COVID-19 has come to New York and it's brought a lot of uncertainty and new ways of life with it. It's vicious and it's changed our lives and keeps us from many things that we love but it cannot steal our hope and joy.
Last week following our governor's request for social distancing etc. as an essential resource (food pantry) we made the decision to only have one or two people working in our building at a time. We spread out the volunteer hours, made a schedule and told people that we totally understand if they don't want to come right now. Our motto is SIMPLIFY & SERVE. We have cut down our activities to only food and supply related at this time. It's just not safe to take in used household donations and clothing knowing that those donations could harbor this terrible virus. It's just not worth it and we're being kept busy with distributing food and supplies four days a week 2 hours a day and partnering with Huntington Assembly (Pastor Danny Rivera), Friends of the Huntington Station Latin Quarter (Xavier & Laura Palacios) local food establishments and Friends of HHRM to bring "drive thru" hot meals 2 days a week (650 meals served last week. That's been awesome and is running smoothly. We've had to raise additional funds to help fund the meals, packaging etc. We've been asking local restaurants to make 200 meals for $500 on Wednesdays and Fridays. Pastor Danny & HSLQ have been getting an additional 200. It gives the restaurants some business and gives us some great food to share. This past week our partners were RED & Mama Lucia. The families REALLY enjoyed the meals.
We've been taking in the leftover lunches and breakfasts from our school district and distributing them, preparing extra lunches & family snack bags for distribution and that being said, we had to purchase a new commercial size fridge 54" to keep perishable foods at proper temperatures. It will be delivered around April 7th and we can't wait to get it. We've been securing cleaning supplies like bleach, soaps, detergent, paper towels, hand sanitizer, antibacterial whatever we can find, diapers, wipes, formula and double doses of encouragement and prayer.
We've also been enjoying some family time as we "social distance". We have our two college "kids" Heather and AJ ( and Heather's 14 year old Jack Russell Lulu-Einstein's new BFF) home with us from Virginia. AJ is in the 4th year of a 5 year engineering program and is now doing all his studies online. Heather is studying exercise science and she's been busy online as well. They no longer have their jobs or the opportunity to be with friends at this time. It can be a little discouraging but there's nothing like family and we are enjoying the time that we have together. Mattison is in North Dakota in the USAF and is doing well although they are having their share of COVID-19 there. Drew is living here on Long Island and doing what he can to get through this crisis. Gianna is with her mom up in Mass and is doing 5th grade online. She won't be coming for Spring Break and we're bummed about that but it's ok. Next time will be better:) Sometimes it's hard for young people to stay encouraged but we're trying to help them navigate these uncertain time.
Marianna Cava, my new administrative assistant has been working remotely and is updating our website and social media posts regularly, fielding calls and requests and doing an amazing job. It was like, "Welcome Marianna, start your awesome mission job and hey...it's a pandemic everything's changing. Can you do a million things at once. And she can." She's awesome and we're so happy to have her. Her love and heart for the people that we serve is amazing.
John Walsh our Food Pantry manager has been packing food bags solo twice a day and is keeping us up to date on our pantry needs. He's a real blessing and always smiles and encourages me that it's going to be ok. He can't believe the number of bags that we are giving out.
Jennifer Laino has been helping with correspondence, donor thank you letters and filling in wherever she's needed. She's always so helpful and a true friend and asset to HHRM. WE ARE BLESSED!
Ingrid Wright & Graciela Lopez have been assisting with pantry hours. Their love shines as they love people through the glass doors from a distance for now.
Irma Cuaresma has been identifying single moms and families that have no way to get out or around, small children etc. We are working with a local scout leader who is going to get those families the basic food items that they need.
Our community is coming together in so many ways. Over the last two weeks we have distributed
745 Lunches & family snack bags "to go"
140 Bags of Diapers & Wipes given to families
110 Bags of cleaning supplies (bleach, detergent, sanitizer paper prod)
187 Pantry food bags distributed
650 Meals Served "Drive Thru" Style (w Hunt. Assembly & HSLQ)
We will be having our "Spring Into Easter" Celebration "Drive Thru" style this year
just a little differently. We are so happy to have partnered with Hunt. Assembly.& Friends of HSLQ to accomplish this. See the pdfs on our home page for more details. I'm SO HAPPY Easter isn't cancelled!! Whoohoo! The kids and their families will be so happy to receive their Easter baskets and see our faces from their cars. We love them so much!
Is this easy? NO! Is it going to be ok? YES! We just have to take this storm one day at a time. It's constantly changing, the news is paralyzing so we don't listen to it all day every day. We are filling ourselves with hope and courage, walking in a newfound confidence as we pray and ask for God's protection and guidance.
My favorite quotation this week is:
"On the other side of a storm is the strength that comes from navigating through it. Set your sails and begin."-Gregory Williams
My verse of the week is "Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion that cannot be shaken but abides forever." Psalm 125:1
We know it's going to be quite a while but every day is a day closer to us being on the other side of this pandemic. Our prayers are with those suffering through this horrific disease. We know several personally who are going through hard times with the virus. We pray for their complete recovery. We pray for all medical people for their strength and protection. We pray for our leaders. We pray for our own protection and health, God's provision and peace over our little Mission on Broadway. We know He will be faithful!
I've started a little "thing" in the mornings to connect with family and friends on my personal Facebook page @kimgambino "Coffee With Kimmi" it's a morning opportunity to refuel, recharge and be together.
You're welcome to join us whenever you're able.
Let's stay strong and work together although it be from a distance for a while.
We are helping our community and we're loving and serving like never before!
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Kim (Gaines) Gambino serves as the President/Pastor of the Helping Hand Rescue Mission in Huntington Station.