The Council of Congregations, in co-operation with the Department of Health for the Borough of South River NJ, has been operating a food bank for over twenty years to assist those in need. Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church has been an active supporter of the food bank and parishioners serve as Chairman (Paul Zelanko) and members (Joan Pisuk & Joyce Major) of the Board of Health. The food bank had been located in the South River Senior Center ... until "Super Storm Sandy" brought destruction to it and the community of South River.
An entire neighborhood ~ known as the Causeway ~ was underwater and many of the homes and business were condemned as unsafe for occupancy; this included several parishioners of the parish. Among the casualties was the Senior Center and the total destruction of all of the stock and fixtures of the Food Bank. Various alternative locations were investigated and Saints Peter and Paul parish decided to make its hall available for the food bank. Since the parish hall is also used as a polling place, food bank items could be brought to the church until November 7th. For the first two weeks, the food bank was open for nine hours a day, six days a week. In addition to food, clothing, diapers, cleaning supplies, and water were distributed. The food bank was staffed by volunteers from the community and the parish.
Since the parish was the only operating source of distributed assistance, Saints Peter and Paul became the warehouse and distribution point for aid from FEMA and the American Red Cross. Donations and support from surrounding churches, and the relief arm of the Episcopal Church, came together in this labor of assisting neighbors in need.
Since there were many people in temporary housing, the food bank and parish hosted a complete Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings for over 100 people. The food was prepared and donated by a local restaurant, Ria Mar.
The current operation of the food bank is three days a week; the parish continues to be a distribution point for aid from the Red Cross and other relief agencies.
“Our parish has always been involved in reaching out to our community as a whole,” said Father David Garretson (parish rector). “We have been generous in time, talent and treasure. This event has brought the reality of need in a way we never before experienced. We can often see the hand of God in what others may see as mere coincidence. The first Sunday after the food bank moved into out hall was the Gospel of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) , the second Sunday was the Gospel of the foolish rich man who built a larger barn (Luke 12:16-21). I believe that God gave our parish these Gospels at this particular time so that we could be strengthened in this work of making Christ's love present in our community.”