Life Together Fellowship expand food pantry distributions in Bronx communities
"It's more than just church, it's a lifestyle of worship through knowing God, loving people and serving our community. Our Goal - To become an Acts 2:42-47 Biblical Church "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer," That's the message that appears on the Life Together Fellowship website.
The message further reads about the church's mission: "It’s a Lifestyle of Worship, know God, love people and serve the community.
Just like their mission statement states, Life Together Fellowship (LTF) has in the last three months been serving the communities where they operate from, food.
The community around the church which has two locations, one in the Throggs Neck area on 4102 East Tremont Avenue and another on 2347 Lafayette Avenue in the Castle Hill area of the Bronx, have been able to walk to any of the two locations to pick up food.
In an interview with Parkchester Times, LTF Senior Pastor Raymond Serrano elaborated more about the church's community service of providing food to those in need.
"For the last three months, we have been serving the community food. First we were delivering it, now people can come to the building, our church to pick up the food," said Pastor Serrano. "Last week we served about 65 people and this past week we served about 115 people. Now it's getting up. We do it every Thursday and more people are knowing, I thank God we are able to serve them that. We are starting to get started at Tremont. But now we are going to start what we are doing in Castle Hill, which is having the food ready where they can just come and pick it up. Picking up is not implemented yet at Tremont because it is a smaller congregation. We don't want to start something then tell them we have food, next week we don't have food. We want to set it up in such a way that we can have something for them every week."
Pastor Serrano said in both locations, the church was near the New York City Housing Authority housing and that they usually see the needs of the people who live in these houses.
"We see the needs in those areas for the people that are hungry or struggling with some type of addiction," he said.
Pastor Serrano said COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the people's livelihoods as some of them had lost their jobs.
"Some of the jobs that they were working, they closed or they minimized the hours. So now they don't have the same income coming home. Thank God that when you live in these NYCHA houses, as your income changes, they adjust the rent but that doesn't mean there can be food," he said. "When you have a meal program, a food pantry that starts at 1:00 pm and people stand in the line from 10:00 am you know there is an issue. Why would you go and wait for hours in the cold for a program that starts at 1:00 pm? I think that's an indication of what our community needs. They need food and not every food pantry gives the same thing. When you start seeing the community going to stand on line, you know there is an issue because before COVID, there would be lines but not the amount of people that we see now."
Pastor Serrano said with the overwhelming response the food pantry has had, his organization had partnered with another food pantry organization called Matter of Life, in ensuring that the needs of the community were met.
"Matter of Life has been providing us the food. We also have one councilman who is providing us the food. We are trying to apply for food banks which give enormous amounts of food for the needy," he said. They require that you do six months on your own. So we have to have a period of six months of us doing it by ourselves and then they will allow us to put in an application for them to provide food directly to us to give to the community. We have applied for food pantry grants so we are waiting for those responses. Thank God, for the last three months, we have been able to provide the food. Right now our major provider is Matter of Life. Their food pantry has been going on for the last 20 years."
He said Community Board 9 District Manager William Rivera has also been providing some fresh produce to LTF.
"The City has provided mask shields. Every time we give food, we give the people two mask shields. There is a need for masks. People are using the same masks for weeks and weeks which should not be the case. Anyone else that can provide something that we want to help the community with is free to do so. We are trying to find even warm gloves, it's cold out there," said Pastor Serrano.
He said LTF was willing to partner with any organization that was involved in similar programs as themselves.
"We want to partner with anyone that is doing something, whether they are providing food or doing other programs, we don't mind sharing the resources. If we have extra food, we don't mind sharing with them, if they want to share with us they can do so. The goal is to meet the needs of this community," Pastor Serrano said. "We see the needs and I think we have to unite more with different organizations to help meet the needs. It's not about my organization or their organization, the bottom line is that there is a community that needs help. If community board 10 can help , the city of New York can help or organizations that are doing different things can help, I think helping each other out would be a better benefit for the community."
Pastor Serrano said in addition to food, LTF has also been providing the homeless with blankets.
"We do give out blankets to church members every Sunday for them to go round looking for homeless people living in the street and in the cold and give them blankets. That's just the beginning of many things we want to do," he said.
Pastor Serrano said LTF is also hoping to get funding to open up a music school to teach children, music in general as a way of helping them to stay off the streets
"That is one of our desires. We are not there yet. Those are some of the things that we are going to do. Those are the main things we want to start. For the pantry we have started and the blankets too," he said. "We see the number of kids on the streets that are just looking for things to do and we are just trying to meet their needs and get them out of the streets. We hope they can find something to do that will keep them away from doing the things that they're not supposed to be doing. We would have instruments and they would come after school. We will have teachers to teach them. We don't have that yet but that is the plan."
Pastor Serrano said LTF was looking to expand the summer adventure camps they have been having for the last 10 years, to ensure that they catered for more children.
"We have what we call summer adventure camp in which parents bring their kids from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. They come here to have fun, a week here in Castle Hill and another week in the Tremont location. Parents just come and drop off the kids, they could stay if they want. Kids have to be of the age from 5 to 11 years old. We also want to fulfil the needs of the kids from the ages 12 to 19. We are trying to just provide things that they can come and enjoy," he said.