Written by John H. Meyer Friday, 12 February 2010 00:00
In preparation for this, my third piece about the Faith Mission, a soup kitchen and pantry in Freeport, I made another visit to talk with Mary Joesten, the director and founder, along with several of the volunteers. Jennifer Lyon, who still lives in Massapequa and who is a dedicated team leader and a school teacher, stopped by my home to tell me about the problem the Mission is having getting food for the more than 250 hungry people that need a hot meal at lunch time. Many even come for coffee and bagels or a cold cereal breakfast.
Jen said the Mission that was started in 1999 receives help from Long Island Cares because at Our Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church they don’t have restaurant-type kitchen facilities to prepare hot meals. “One thing that we don’t have is enough freezer space,” she said. “At times we do get a large amount of food donated and we can’t save it because of lack of room. We only have a household-size freezer and this is a problem she said. It would be great if someone or an appliance store would donate a freezer to the Mission, it would be an enormous help.” Mary Joesten added that they have about 30 men that come every Saturday to take a shower and to get new underwear and socks. Mary said that this Mission, and its sister one in Jamaica, is a lifesaver for a lot of families.
Faith Mission receives no city, state or federal government support and has no administrative expenses. All of the volunteers and the director are unpaid and no one receives reimbursements for personal expenses like gas for their cars.
Understanding and seeing for myself the need for help and having worked with my Kiwanis Club in Massapequa and other organizations, I suggested some fundraising ideas and the possibility that local community service clubs may want to become involved if the program was presented at one of their meetings. “We need all the help we can get at the moment,” Mary said. “Up until recently we were getting gently used clothing, blankets and anything else which is donated that might make someone’s life more comfortable.” She added that small furniture like cribs, baby cloth are always being asked for. “It’s disappointing to have to tell these people we can’t help them,” she said. But Mary said they do tell them to try other missions close by.
Faith Mission is located in the lower level of Our Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church, 87 Pine Street in Freeport, just south of Sunrise Highway. Mary told me that there are quite a few veterans that have just returned from the front lines in Afghanistan and Iraq coming to Faith Mission and have post traumatic stress disorder or depression and many suffered traumatic brain injury during their deployment. Mary added that not only are the veterans suffering from PTSD, they can’t find a job or housing. Mary said that to see homeless veterans is a heartbreaking reality after what they just went through.
Mary said that she has been told by members of the Department of Veterans Affairs that they estimate 196,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. She said that a coordinated substance abuse treatment is needed.
Mary said that according to the New York State Department of Veterans Affairs, the estimated number of known homeless veterans in Nassau is about 3,000 and 8,375 in Queens County. Mary said that according to her sources at the VA, those numbers will reach crisis proportions as veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan because many men have been exposed, for long periods, to combat-related stress and traumatic events.
With all of this knowledge, and Mary’s sincere dedication to the needs of the less fortunate, she, with the help of some friends, has started the New York Veterans Advocacy Group, Inc. The members of NYVAG are reaching out to the veterans at Faith Mission Inc., soup kitchen, pantry, on the streets, under bridges and in the woods. Their needs are not being met because there are not enough services available to treat veterans for substance abuse, mental health disorders, physical disabilities, housing or their other personal problems.
Mary said that her group in no way criticizes the existing programs or the VA’s heroic efforts to accomplish the impossible facing a backlog of thousands of claims. The VA’s efforts have been an inspiration to the group but much more must be done for our returning heroes.
Father Paul Landolfi at (718) 945-2800 and Mary Joesten at 992-5063 would be happy to answer any questions or to hear from anyone who feels they can help in some way.