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Bayard Street Presbyterian Church Distributes Food, Camaraderie, Hope

Volunteers Help Support Food Distribution and Other Programs in Downtown Church
Michael Pisocki

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Bayard Street Presbyterian Church outreach program is a place to provide dignity and hope for all who enter.

The steady flow of goods distributed to attendees in need combined with the exemplary efforts of kind and caring people make this program a success.

The food distribution is a donation and volunteer program that provides struggling families and individuals with essentials for living. Donations are dropped off at the church where the volunteers prep it for distribution.

Volunteers are the driving force behind the success of the monthly program.

Vineet Kumar of East Brunswick has been volunteering in the outreach program for a year, and has volunteered in his community for twenty years. He recently invited his daughter Vanhika to volunteer.

New Brunswick resident Allen Rabert has been involved with the distribution program in multiple ways: first as someone who benefited from services, and then as a volunteer.

Through his volunteering work with the Bayard Street Presbyterian Church, which was documented on Good Morning America, Rabert was able to find an employment opportunity from a Good Morning America contact and now helps administrate church events.

Other than the food drive, the Bayard Street Presbyterian Church also holds community art events. Rabert described a recent art event he was involved with as a “creative release.”

Each participant was encouraged to create a visual artistic representation of a prayer. Each paper sized prayer was then hung on a display fixture at the front of the church in the form of a cross.

One artist fashioned a Staples logo, which Allen described as “a prayer for a successful job interview.” Others pieces were more abstract.

The Bayard Street Presbyterian Church does not require sermon attendance, but all are invited to partake in the service proceeding the food distribution.

Julio Galatilis, a newcomer to New Brunswick formerly from Elizabeth, visited several organizations after experiencing tough times before finding a spiritual connection to the Bayard Street Presbyterian church. Julio also volunteers at the church, where he aims to spread his enthusiasm for life throughout the building.

One of the organizers of the food distribution program is long time resident Randy McCalla.

He is also responsible for the church communications, events, and operations. Before his four year current stretch in New Brunswick, Randy spent a few years in Providence Rhode Island organizing a basketball league for at-risk young adults.

In addition to the monthly food distribution on Bayard Street, Randy also performs a monthly drop at the Easton Avenue train station.

On average, food and basic needs are distributed to around 175 people. Nobody has ever left empty handed, and the reaction after the distribution is positive. Bread, snacks, juice, water, baby food, and bibles were all made readily available to those who attend.

Local organizations and community members provide all donations.

Reverend Bodnar, of the Bayard Street Presbyterian Church, recalled mentioning the need for bibles to a friend who was aware of his charitable endeavors and soon after 400 bibles arrived at his driveway.

When asked if volunteers were scarce he replied “it’s never been a problem, it’s better than ever.”

In addition to the previously mentioned programs, the church has four free dinners a year, and hosts several community events such as family fun days, flea markets, and luncheonettes.

A new warmth and food program will be starting soon. Those in need will be welcomed every Wednesday at noon to receive food and shelter starting in the fall.

Bayard Street Presbyterian church works in conjunction with other churches and service organizations on many events in an effort to both inspire similar and different events as well as increase availability to those in need.

The Reverend explained, “if every organization covered a different day we would have it all covered.” Randy echoed the sharing sentiment when recalling the early days of his train station drop offs: “There were a lot of groups showing up at the same time, so after communicating we covered more days.”

If you would like to donate, volunteer, worship, or listen, the Bayard Street Presbyterian church is located at 147 Bayard Street in downtown New Brunswick, at the corner with  Joyce Kilmer Avenue.