For the past two months Calvary UMC in Dumont has been a prolific bearer of good news in the form of food and clothing as the pandemic weighs down on the people living in its local communities.
Rev. Elaine Wing, along with her congregation of Calvary UMC has been modeling the teachings of Jesus to love their neighbors by opening up the building and parking lot to those in need in New Jersey and to their neighbors across the border in New York; and making disciples by opening their hearts and minds to work with local organizations to bolster the ecumenical effort.
“Jesus taught us to be his hands, voice, feet and heart…I’m so grateful for recent forms of ministry at and through Calvary UMC!” said Wing who has partnered with the nonprofit, The Food Brigade, an organization that is leading the way toward helping others lead vital lives.
At Calvary UMC, which serves as home base for The Food Brigade, food ministry is growing in tandem with the rising demand. Just before Thanksgiving the team provided more than 200 families (771 kids) with food boxes after a two-week closure at the public schools resulted in a shuttering of the free lunch program. Also, a local Boy Scout troop distributed over 500 letters to homeowners around the church to invite their involvement as recipients of free food/milk and to volunteer.
“Both of our tenant churches have decided to participate in this ministry as well; they distribute to families from the weekly allotment given to Calvary,” said Wing.
On Nov. 18 a total of 49,950 pounds of food (24.975 tons), plus 1,404 gallons of milk, was distributed to persons living in five New Jersey counties. Eighty-five of those boxes were distributed by members and friends of Calvary and Church of the Good Shepherd to family, neighbors and co-workers.
Each week the formidable group seems to eclipse their previous record. On Nov. 11 The Food Brigade had conducted its largest operation to date, distributing 27,000 pounds of food (13.5 tons) – plus 864 gallons of milk. Each week the group seems to eclipse the previous week’s record.
The partnership with The Food Brigade started back in April when food boxes were supplied by a contact who represented the Sri Lankan Muslim Association of New Jersey. Those boxes of food were brought into Calvary where people selected what they wanted, filling bags with fresh produce.
And that outreach has grown tentacles.
“Growing numbers of our church members are requesting boxes to distribute to neighbors, co-workers, extended family,” said Wing who regularly encourages her members who are unable to give financially to find new families in need.
“This past Wednesday we had 20 extra boxes. The administrative assistant at Leonia UMC took five boxes to homeless and displaced families in Palisades Park. He was over the moon with gratitude. I know he will be back for a higher number of boxes.”
Throughout this time, the group has also shared with the food insecure neighbors to the north including Spring Valley UMC in Rockland County, NY, as well as the Nueva Vida ministry of Ridgefield Park UMC where the ministry primarily reaches day laborers.
And the outreach stretches beyond the boundaries of United Methodists too.
“We’ve made inroads with our Jewish brothers and sisters. They helped with the second free clothing event,” said Wing. “The stories go on and on. Partnership is the way of ministry for the future! We are doing great things for God by working together!”
But the ministry doesn’t stop at food. In addition to food distribution, Calvary UMC is also distributing clothing. A recent clothing giveaway provided 40 families with clothing to keep them warm this winter.
“I love the fact that we have a mountain of clothing bags in our sanctuary,” said Wing. “I’m smiling, and I think Jesus would be smiling as well!” She added that recovery groups have also continued in their church building with the enforcement of strict social distance guidelines.
“I am so grateful for the many ways our congregations at Calvary and Good Shepherd have embraced a partnership with The Food Brigade. We continue to explore new partnerships and draw on old relationships.”
In December Calvary UMC will open the doors to its fellowship hall for the annual Dumont Holiday Toy Giveaway for local families unable to purchase holiday presents for their children. Each of these activities are done with utmost care and concern for safety against COVID-19.
Each initiative is a team effort, and Wing makes sure to show her appreciation.
“I give thanks for those who keep the wheels of the church turning smoothly behind the scenes – Vivian Bosetti, Lynn Dyer, John Bruton, Jimmy Hayer, Nancy Hutchinson, Joan Davis, Karen Ravensbergen, Tanya Zimmerman and Pat Bruger. I’m grateful for Dale Hutchinson who has cared for the church property, mowing the grass and raking leaves since last spring. And I’m thankful for Tony Lee who tended the church garden, harvesting crops for hungry families.
The families who sacrificed their talent and money to build our church would be amazed at how lives continue to be transformed by God’s healing love experienced at and through 185 W. Madison Ave.”
Wing is a constant presence in her community, serving along with the her fellow Food Brigade board member, Karen DeMarco, at the town’s “Stigma-Free Committee,” which raises awareness of mental illness and creates a culture where residents who have the disease feel supported by their community and feel free to seek treatment for the disease without fear of stigma or feelings of isolation and shame.
While their bodies are being nourished and covered and their souls are being restored, the voices of the hungry are also being heard. Below is a collection of messages the church has received:
“I am “Jane Smith” one of the recipients of your church generosity through a CUMC member. I am a single mom and me and my son appreciate your church’s benevolence. It saves us money to pay our other needs ever since we became recipient of the food and grocery that you shared to the needy. Thank you very much and may God always bless your congregation.”
“Thank you so much for the box of food I received. I am anxious about going to the grocery store during the pandemic, and the delivery of food allows me to stay home and safe.”
“My mom lives in Rockland County in Section Eight housing. She is on an extremely limited budget. The food you gave her made her happy and really helped stretch her dollars.”