Residents lined up around the block outside the WRBA office on Jamaica Avenue to collect one of 100 grocery boxes supplied through an initiative launched by FreshDirect and the Office of the Queens Borough President.
“This pandemic brought a lot of problems out,” said WRBA President Stephen Forte. “People are losing their jobs and a lot of them don’t have enough to eat.
“Honestly, it was very surprising to me,” he added. “We got into the game late because we had put out feelers to the community and nobody responded at first.”
WRBA normally acts as a liaison between residents and city agencies, but the office pivoted its efforts to accommodate needs that arose during the pandemic and resulting lockdown.
This included starting a weekly newsletter to keep residents informed about what’s happening around the community.
After taking note of the large turnout to a food distribution event in neighboring Ozone Park, Forte and his team decided to sponsor a similar effort in Woodhaven- and the response was overwhelming.
“The line went two blocks,” recalled Forte. The same was true of the food drive on July 23.
In addition to the FreshDirect boxes, residents received a tote bag (donated by Assemblyman Mike Miller) that held two pairs of Bomba socks and 10 face masks. Care packages were distributed by volunteers from the local American Legion Post 118 and its Women’s Auxiliary.
WRBA has received individual donations of PPE from State Senator Joe Addabbo, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, the Mayor's Office, the Office of the Queens Borough President and Jenifer Rajkumar, who recently won the Democratic nomination for the 38th Assembly District representing Woodhaven, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Glendale.
“Especially now, as we rebuild from the coronavirus,” said Rajkumar, who stopped by Thursday's event, “it’s more important than ever to have energy and strong leadership in south Queens.”
Rajkumar, who is a Woodhaven resident herself, reported that her campaign has hosted three additional food drives in the district over the last three weeks.
As for the block association, Forte says the group will continue to expand and adapt itself to the evolving needs of the neighborhood.
“We do it because we care,” explained Forte, a resident of Woodhaven for 40 years. “We live here and the community is going to be what we make of it.”