A hero can best be defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities, so let me tell you about my heroes.
As I was thinking about this crazy, mixed up year and all that I have to be thankful for, I am truly honored and proud to be leading the staff at Bread and Life during these uncertain times. Our team is simply the best. They are a group of folks with great talents who go out on the front lines every day to ensure that no one goes hungry in our community and that anyone who asks for help is able to get it and feel a bit more secure during these challenging times. They show up every day, suit up with PPE and put themselves on the front lines not knowing what to expect.
The way we operate now is so very different from the way we operated a year ago. We no longer have a building bustling with people enjoying a meal, shopping at the kiosks, watching a movie, working in the media center, or meeting with a team member. Now the building is filled with working staff, all 30 of us, distributing thousands of pounds of food each day. What amazes me most is that the staff continually respond with kindness and compassion, and meet the needs of our guests with the dignity they deserve. At the end of each day we are exhausted but take pride in what we’ve done. Through it all they remind one another of the blessings that we as a Bread and Life family have. I am keenly aware of the sacrifices they make each day, marveling at their ingenuity and flexibility.
Since July 1, 2020, we have distributed 2 million pounds of food or 1.6 million meals, secured approximately 1 million dollars in emergency benefits, and distributed more than 8,000 pieces of mail all in the first quarter of this fiscal year alone! That’s 3 times what we normally do in a full year, and if the rates continue to rise we anticipate distributing more than 4 million pounds of food or 3.5 million meals. What a great accomplishment for us, one that gives us incredible pride knowing that we played a part in keeping people fed. For their outstanding efforts, the team at Bread and Life was recently honored by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams as COVID Heroes, recognizing their dedication to serving others in the midst of chaos. Just last week, I was privileged to receive the Irish Echo’s Champions Award for leadership during the pandemic. What great honors for Bread and Life!
As I write this letter we are preparing for our annual Sponsor A Family Program, another thing that will look different this year. Our families will receive a delicious holiday food basket, and parents will receive a gift card in order to safely shop for their little ones. We know it’s not the same but we’ve done our best to create a way for all of us to enjoy the holidays either by giving or receiving. As we mark Giving Tuesday this week I am hopeful that our readers will consider Bread and Life and help in whatever way they can.
As we kick off the holidays, we know that times are tough and I encourage you to find new ways to share your love with others – send a card, call a friend, video chat with a relative, make amends with someone you’ve had a falling out with, or, if you can, Sponsor a Family. Use this most unusual time to re-invent the true meaning of Christmas for you and those you love and let’s create new ways to find joy during this most challenging year.
Sr. Caroline Tweedy, RSM