Thoughts from the Senior Warden
(October 7, 2020)

As I sit down to write this, I’m struggling to comprehend how we’ve managed to sustain a program for six months that was a really just a church’s response to an emergency condition in our community brought about by COVID-19. The God in Action – Food Alliance didn’t exist before March of this year. How could we know that the situation for those facing food and financial insecurity would last into the Fall. Wasn’t the coronavirus supposed to die in hotter temperatures? The reality is far different than anything we could have imagined. And yet we carry on. Shockingly, we’ve gone from a complete start-up to the distribution source that the City of White Plains has come to rely on (they consolidated their four distributions into ours back in July). As this has happened, we have quadrupled the amount of food that we’re giving out to the 200-300 families who stand in line to receive the supplies each Friday – and have supplied these families with food to sustain them for 4 to 5 days. The best part of what we’re providing is that there is a solid balance of protein, produce, dairy and shelf-stable items. Private donors have stepped up from the start to supplement with things like eggs, bread, cooked chickens, toilet paper and school supplies. A true sign that a higher presence is working in our midst is that for the 23 weeks of distributions only one was affected by rain (last week) – and that was only for the set-up hours. I hear Father Adolfo asking for an “Amen!”… 

Having shared all of this; it’s now time for us to prepare for the colder months ahead. Arrangements have already been made to tighten up the logistics for delivering the supplies from the food bank to the church. We’re setting up space to store the frozen items and hope to streamline the distribution process so that the recipients won’t have to spend hours in line waiting (currently, people are starting to line up from 8:30am for a noon distribution). We’ve sourced tents and heaters and are making plans to continue without interruption through the coldest winter months. I have no sense as to when things will get back to normal. I am certain that the demand for what this ministry provides will be with us for longer than any could have predicted. Please pray for us.

The obvious question from anyone watching the development of this new ministry is “how can you possible sustain the energy to keep going?” The volunteers, Father Adolfo and I sprinted to get this program started in the late winter and we’ve been sustaining a similar pace throughout. Making things better each week has been our directive (more food, more balance, clothing, kitchen items, school supplies, getting volunteers to deliver to the shut-ins, and on). Curiously, fatigue has never been an issue. I can only speak for myself, but I’m absolutely feeding off the energy and enthusiasm of the special group of people who have dedicated themselves to the simple mission of “taking care of their neighbors”. Father Adolfo has publicly stated that this mission work is what feeds his soul. People have shared with me that the energy that I convey when I’m talking about this ministry is contagious. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that Bishop Allen Shin (of the Episcopal Diocese of New York) was so moved by a conversation that Father Chip and I had with him last week that he committed (on the spot) to join us this Friday to volunteer. Knowing that the Bishop will be joining us, I asked Chairman of the Westchester County Legislature Ben Boykin and White Plains Mayor Tom Roach to join us. Both enthusiastically agreed. We’ve engaged the services of a videographer and plan to make a professionally edited promotional video to spread the word about this ministry and help with fund raising. I’m in the process of applying for the “Basic Human Needs” Grant from the Episcopal Charities and have made a petition to a large donor (through the City of White Plains) for 10 large storage containers. I just got off the phone with a contact about making arrangements to have free flu shots provided for families who are waiting in line to receive their food. 

The Holy Spirit is in our midst. Our “energy supply”, as far as I can see, is boundless.

In Peace and Gratitude

Michael Heffner
Grace Episcopal Church/La Gracia
Senior Warden