CNS photo/Chris Herlinger
CNS photo/Chris Herlinger

Thirty-five years ago, someone in need knocked on the door of St. Mary’s By The Sea Episcopal Church in Point Pleasant Beach looking for food for the family.

Seeing the desperate need, the church secretary went home, put together a box of staples from her own kitchen pantry and brought it to the person.

That act of kindness led the church’s deacon to lay the foundation of St. Gregory’s Pantry, and over the decades, the ecumenical emergency relief program has grown to include more than 10 participating churches and some 250 volunteers serving an average of 10,000 individuals a year.

Among the Catholic parishes that contribute are St. Peter, Point Pleasant Beach; St. Martha, Point Pleasant, and Sacred Heart, Bay Head.

These days, in response to COVID-19, a reduced crew of 75 volunteers distributes food curbside from the Atlantic Avenue side of the church five days a week from 10 a.m. to noon.

“Because no people are walking in, it’s necessary to call us, and we’ll prepare the order and deliver it or have them come for pick up,” said Sandra McIntyre, director of St. Gregory’s Pantry. She noted that the packages are prepared to serve families of one to 12.

“We have a list of foods they can pick from, and we keep in mind the cooking facilities available for each family. Some might only have a microwave to work with,” she said.

“We are very fortunate that our community is so giving,” McIntyre said, “We help everyone who calls.”

That sense of service and devotion, she said, is a hallmark of the community and reflects the united mission to assist families and individuals who need help.