Eight years ago, the First Presbyterian Church of Verona created a program called Sunday Suppers to bring food to people in need in our community. More recently, the church has encouraged parishioners to support the food pantry at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit. Now, First Presbyterian has added what Pastor Lynn Rubier-Capron calls a “third stream” to its food ministry: the Blessing Box.
Built by parishioner Charles Heyer, the Blessing Box stands by the church’s Fairview Avenue driveway. It looks like a bird feeder, but it is meant to address a much larger need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blessing Box is stocked with pantry staples that anyone in need can take at any time.
“The Blessing Box is a simple mission that is another facet of the food program in Verona to help those who need it right now,” says Heyer. “There are grand mission programs and then there are small, but meaningful, missions that a smaller church can have that add to the overall effort that is going on.”
While the ministry may seem small, it has been noticed. Last year, First Presbyterian was recognized as a Hunger Action Congregation by the national Presbyterian Church. And with its large church kitchen closed temporarily by New Jersey’s social distancing rules, the Blessing Box is one way to keep acting on hunger. Beverly Winkler, the First Presbyterian parishioner who runs the Sunday Suppers program with her family and others in the congregation, is also delivering grocery bags of food that have been donated to the church or that the church has purchased with donated funds.
The plural “s” in Sunday Suppers is deliberate. The monthly delivery is intended to provide each recipient with two or three meals. The church works with Mary Farrell in Verona’s health department to identify people who need food because of pandemic. But that hasn’t been possible since the pandemic hit. Pastor Rubier-Capron, heard about the Blessing Box and proposed it to Winkler as an alternative. So now Winkler and her family are accepting drop-offs of pantry staples at their Verona home and using them to restock the box.
“I know people are taking things, which is a great thing,” says Winkler. “No one should ever go hungry, and nobody needs to do know what you need.”
Community members who want to support First Presbyterian’s food relief efforts can drop food off in Winkler’s driveway at 17 Lynwood Road, make a donation online or send a check made payable to First Presbyterian with “Sunday Suppers” in the memo line to the church at 10 Fairview Avenue.
Winkler hopes that Sunday Suppers will be back in the kitchen soon. Residents who need the support of First Presbyterian’s food program can contact the Verona Health Department at (973) 857-4824.
“If you need it take it,” says Winkler of the Blessing Box. “If you have it, share it.”
Pastor Rubier-Capron announced the Blessing Box last week in a video on Facebook, and you can watch it here: