Local nonprofit organizes crisis relief drive
by Benjamin Fang
Apr 08, 2020 | 1623 views | 0 0 comments | 62 62 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Crystal Wolfe with food she collected that will be donated to the needy and homeless.
Crystal Wolfe with food she collected that will be donated to the needy and homeless.
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Since 2017, Crystal Wolfe, founder of the nonprofit organization Catering for the Homeless, has worked to address issues of hunger and homelessness.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, she decided to organize a food and toiletry crisis relief drive for local pantries, homeless neighbors and others in need.

In the first two weeks, Catering for the Homeless collected 5,000 items, including socks, toiletries and non-perishable foods.

Wolfe said she was singing in choir on March 12 when churches announced they were closing services due to the virus. The news was such a shock to her that she felt down for the next few days.

But with the need even greater now that people are losing their jobs, rather than stay at home being scared or depressed, she asked herself, “what can I do to alleviate the burden?”

“This is what the point of a nonprofit is,” Wolfe said. “I didn’t want to stop helping people because of the coronavirus.”

Wolfe has been delivering meals to elderly and homebound residents, providing meals and toiletries like hand sanitizer and soap for homeless people on the streets, parks and subways, and helping food pantries stock up on items.

She called churches throughout Queens, and learned that half of them are keeping their pantries open. She said they not only need more food, but also more volunteers.

The nonprofit founder has been in touch with the Javits Center, which has converted their catering venue into an emergency hospital. She said they will contact her periodically with food rescue opportunities.

Wolfe has also been petitioning the Department of Education (DOE) to donate their food excess from the grab-and-go meals and learning centers. She has collected about 1,000 signatures from supporters, including Councilman Daniel Dromm.

Last week, she spent most of her days picking up donated items, counting them and bringing them to places like the food pantry at The Church of St. Teresa in Woodside. She volunteered to help set up and serve some 75 families in need in just one day.

“There were definitely a lot of people,” she said. “I suspect when the word spreads, there will be more and more, and that’s just one food pantry.”

As for her crisis relief drive, Wolfe said she’s getting a lot of donations. Many donors drop off items, but she also picks up toiletries and non-perishable foods from people’s homes.

Some have donated monetarily through her website, which she uses to buy groceries to donate directly to local food pantries. Wolfe said she has even reached out to people who have donated in the past to see if they can contribute more.

“Every effort at this time really makes a difference,” she said.

While out collecting items, donating them and volunteering her time, Wolfe has been wearing masks, gloves, hat and glasses. She said she washes her hands regularly and sanitizes her home.

She also makes sure items are not used for at least half a day before she delivers them.

“It’s really not fun to wear a mask, it’s uncomfortable,” she said. “But I do take those precautions. I do keep a distance.”

In speaking to seniors, homebound residents and people experiencing homelessness, Wolfe said overall, she detects a sense of fear and sadness about the pandemic. She personally knows friends who have tested positive for COVID-19, and is saddened by the rising death toll.

“We’re in the heart of the crisis,” she said. “But what keeps me going is to try to do what I can.”
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