On July 27, my GlobalGiving colleague Alexis Nadin and I visited the River Fund in New York City. We walked through Queens on a hot summer day, following the address we had been given. We arrived at a house and knocked on the door. We were immediately greeted and asked to come in to the office, where people were busily working. We asked for Swami, the founder of the River Fund – New York, and were taken to the back of the house where piles of food were stacked waiting to be distributed. As we walked among the piles of onions and loaves of bread, Swami told us the history of the organization and the work that it does in the community.
Every week, 500-600 families come to the River Fund to get food for the week. The food is distributed for free to those in need, and some wait for hours in extreme hot or cold to pick up the food their families need. Swami showed us the distribution system and registration cards that community members get to track the food distributed. He talked about the plan to expand to a larger facility that would allow people to come throughout the week, so they wouldn’t have to spend all day on Saturdays waiting in line to feed their families.
We also learned about the other programs the River Fund offers – programs from helping people sign up for food stamps to providing free tax services serve the community’s needs. More than anything, we were impressed with the responsiveness that the River Fund seemed to demonstrate to the needs of their community. When community members expressed the need for help with their taxes, The River Fund, started providing free tax advisors. When youth in the community needed an activity to keep them busy in the afternoons, the River Fund started a youth basketball team. The office had a jovial, helpful vibe as staff members busily worked and kids kept popping in to say hi or to get a hug. In times of economic downturn , the need to provide these types of services to families is clear. We were lucky to visit an organization that’s helping families and communities from the ground up.
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