With approximately 200,000 people in Westchester County at risk of hunger or hungry, according to recent estimates from the Food Bank for Westchester, and six percent of Westchester families earning below the poverty line (the threshold is defined as $21,954 for a family of four) as reported in 2009 by the U.S. Census Bureau, these statistics suggest an alarming reality about one of the country’s wealthiest counties.
People are going hungry right in our backyards.
With outreach stretching across Westchester and beyond, the Larchmont Avenue Church (LAC) has partnered with a plethora of hunger relief and housing organizations to assist with financial support and to provide much-needed volunteers.
New Rochelle-based Help Our People Eat (H.O.P.E.)—an emergency food pantry and soup kitchen—has received help from LAC in the form of bi-monthly grocery donations as well as a Thanksgiving Holiday Food Drive that last year raised 45 bags of groceries to be distributed to local families.
“H.O.P.E. clients are holding on,” explained Senior Pastor of LAC, Rev. William Crawford, referring to the number of clients who are teetering on the edge of homelessness or other catastrophic occurrences. Crawford stressed the tenuous balance that many families attempt to uphold with food and housing intact, where, once a home is lost for example, “they could spiral and [there could be a] deleterious effect.”
Other local hunger and housing organizations that LAC partners with include Westchester Food Bank, The Lord’s Pantry, Meals on Wheels, the Hunger Task Force, The Bridge Fund, Washingtonville Housing Alliance, and Habitat for Humanity.
Expanding their scope of benevolence across the globe, LAC members have also worked in Nicaragua with Bridges to Community, an organization that provides housing and education to local impoverished communities, and have provided relief to victims of natural disasters in Haiti, Pakistan and Japan.
But wait, there’s more.
LAC also partners with the Larchmont Temple during “Midnight Run” eight times per year to bring food and clothing to New York City’s homeless population. During the frenzied rush prior to the drop-off, kids and adults prepare clothing and food in a charged atmosphere.
“It’s like the moments following a wedding,” said Heidi Hanley, chair of the church and society committee at LAC, describing the rush of energy and excitement among participants.
Additionally, five needy families selected by the Mamaroneck Police receive gift baskets at Christmas to brighten what can be for some who are struggling, a particularly bleak part of the year.
Members of the secondary school are also engaged in the Heifer Project, an aptly named program that matches donations of livelihood-sustaining farm animals to families in the developing world. The kids get to be involved in deciding what animals will go to which location.
Founded in 1914 by Emily Earle Lindsley during a time when women couldn’t vote much less hold any position within the church, the LAC now has their first ordained female pastor, Rev. Julie Emory.
Striking from the inside, LAC’s interior is a testament to its early inception in the turn of the century, its stone exterior and exposed beams belie a quiet elegance that underscores its member’s devotion to spiritual pursuits.
The LAC funds its outreach efforts primarily through donations and fundraising, and has two events coming up to fund further outreach. On April 30, LAC will host “Step Up to the Plate”, a fundraising dinner to support the Mamaroneck Community Outreach Center (CAP) and LAC, and will honor the memory of Jim McDonald, a CAP board member and advocate for LAC. On May 13 and 14, LAC will hold a rummage sale with donated goods including housewares, furniture and clothing for sale, the proceeds of which will benefit local charities.
Step Up to the Plate will be held on April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at LAC. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children, $50 max per family. To purchase tickets please call Melanie Murray at (914) 834-1800, ext. 300. Donations can be sent to Financial Secretary, Larchmont Avenue Church, 60 Forest Park Ave., Larchmont, NY 10538. The Rummage Sale will be held at LAC from 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. on May 13 and 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. on May 14.