A calling from God that Rob Hallam said he received eight years ago has turned into the largest food drive every year for the Long Island Council of Churches’ Freeport food pantry.
On Saturday, lines of volunteers transferred nearly 700 boxes hand-by-hand from Hallam’s Lynbrook home to a truck, and then, when the truck arrived in Freeport, to the food pantry’s storage area.
“For me personally, and for many involved, this is a directive from Jesus saying, 'Feed my children, take care of the orphans, take care of the widows,' ” Hallam said.
The food drive has its roots in an annual food collection, begun about 15 years ago at Community Presbyterian Church of Malverne, where Hallam and his wife, Mary Hallam, are Sunday school teachers.
Rob Hallam, 58, said the calling he received was “to take this little food drive outside the church doors.”
The collection grew from fewer than 1,000 items eight years ago to nearly 16,000 this year, along with almost $7,000 in donations, said Mary Hallam, 59. Some packages, counted as a single item, contain several boxes or cans of food, and more donations are expected in the coming days, she said.
The church is still a major source of donations and “move the food day” volunteers, but food-donation boxes now pop up in real estate offices, nail salons, schools and other workplaces as word of the food drive spread through word of mouth and social media.
Dina Green, 35, of Franklin Square, collected at least seven boxes of food from colleagues at the Douglaston, Queens, school where she is a preschool teacher. Her friend, Rob Maeurer, 42, of Elmont, raised $1,100 on a GoFundMe page, and Green used the money to buy more food.
Green said a food drive is an easy way for people to help.
“When people have an opportunity to give, they almost always do,” she said.
By Saturday, the large living room and entranceway of the Hallams’ home was filled with stacks of boxes up to 7 feet high that contained canned peas, boxed pasta, plastic bottles of juice, canned salmon and other items.
“It looks like so much, but it won’t last all that long,” Mary Hallam said.
She recalled how early this month, she and her husband were shopping for food with donated money and a cashier at a supermarket noticed they were buying many items of the same products. He asked if they were shopping for a food drive and then told them that even though he had three jobs, he couldn’t make ends meet. He asked for the address of the food pantry.
“This happened more than once,” Mary Hallam said. “I love Long Island so much, but it’s tough. It’s an expensive place to live.”
Dorienne Moser, 50, of Great Neck, one of 10 volunteers from New Apostolic Church in Bethpage waiting with about 150 others for the truck filled with food to arrive outside the pantry storage area, said many Long Islanders don’t realize the poverty and need that lies amid the Island’s affluence.
“Or, they look the other way,” she said. “We don’t want to see bad things. We don’t want to acknowledge bad things. When you see these things, it opens your eyes a lot.”