A West Babylon-based nonprofit dedicated to building relationships between law enforcement and youths has temporarily changed its mission to help feed Long Islanders hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March, Cops N’ Kids Long Island has been delivering weekly meals to families and seniors in Huntington, Babylon and Islip towns. As the need has grown, the trio behind the organization, a registered 501(c)(3) — NYPD Det. Kwani O’Pharrow, his wife, Cindy, and family friend Byron McCray — have used their own money to buy meals.
“It’s something we felt we needed to do, especially for the seniors because they couldn’t go outside, whether they didn’t have any family members or they just had surgery,” said Kwani O’Pharrow, 48, the nonprofit’s president.
Since partnering with Bethel AME Church in Copiague to receive meal donations, the O’Pharrows, who live in West Babylon, and McCray, a resident of Bay Shore, have been able to deliver more than 300 meals a week. They’ve also received donations from Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights).
Bethel pastor Keith Hayward said he has received calls about families in need of food. He learned about the work done by Cops N’ Kids while receiving food donations from church members and some local businesses.
“It was very overwhelming,” Hayward, 60, said about the calls he’s received for assistance. “What the three of them are doing made me realize how much we need to be in touch with our community. This pandemic has put a number of families in a desperate situation.”
McCray, 49, who is the director/chief emergency management officer for the West Islip school district, said they change their meals, which could consist of small boxed cereals, apple sauce, deli meat sandwiches and canned vegetables, if people they deliver to have dietary restrictions. McCray said deliveries typically happen on their days off or before work, but they’re flexible.
“If someone is hungry and they call, we don’t wait,” said McCray, who added he has delivered a meal at 8:30 p.m.
Cops N’ Kids was established in March 2019 to help African American and Latino children understand that they too can be police officers. The organization is a continuation of Kwani O’Pharrow’s work in the intelligence bureau based in Brooklyn.
Cindy O’Pharrow, 42, who works as an account executive at Ally Financial, said the work they’ve done has been both tiring and rewarding.
“I had one woman saying she was just eating peanut butter,” she said, adding that people will call and “ask us if we could go grocery shopping for them.”
The O’Pharrows said the work they do has become a family affair as they’ve included their daughter, Shirley Zweifler, 15. McCray’s nephew and niece, Troy Jerideau, 13, and Christina Rodriguez, 8, help put meals together.
“It’s important we work with [our] kids and teach them about community service,” Kwani O’Pharrow said about having his children and McCray’s family involved. “Coming home and servicing the community is very rewarding.”
How to help
To make a donation to help Cops N’ Kids visit https://www.copsnkidsli.org/donate