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Church

The figures painted on the walls and ceiling of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson inevitably draw the eyes up, ever up, past the icons of saints and religious figures to the top of the dome several stories from the floor, up to Greek letters surrounding an image of Jesus looking directly down on the pews below.

Religious images and iconography glow in the soft light, which streams down from the apex of the chapel, images that, having started more than a decade ago, have been finally finished after years of painstaking work. 

Between the scaffolding used by the artists who were finishing up their work, images of St. Haralambos, the Nativity of the Theotokos, the baptism and the entrance of the Virgin Mary all adorn the walls, painted on fabric that is adhered to the wall, the kind of sight those of the 6th century must have had on the walls of now-ancient Byzantine churches.

High above the nave’s pews, only a few spots needed to be completed by Feb. 21: a handful of arches above the towering windows and the finishing of some icons. By the weekend, the chapel was completed.

“Although it’s very tedious work, I derive satisfaction in putting up works of art that are immortal and will be present for many years.”

—Dimitris Gkinos

“I’m delighted to put on canvas the life of Christ and the saints, and it’s very enjoyable and rewarding,” said iconographer Dimitris Gkinos. He and most of the other painters, who work for the Greek iconography company, Alevizakis Icons, only speak a little English, but their words were translated by Father Demetrios “Jim” Calogredes, who has seen the iconography go up since he came to the church in 2009.

The iconographers hired to finish the chapel’s paintings are a mix of artists from all over, including the U.S. and Serbia, but mostly Greece. 

“I am from Serbia, and I wanted to become an artist and then an iconographer,” said Dragomir Djekic. “I finished college in Belgrade, Serbia — that’s the university in the capital city — then when I came to the United States, I found other iconographers and started to work.”

The paintings that now adorn the walls and ceiling of the chapel have been in the works since 2002, when the old Greek Orthodox church on Sheep Pasture Road was replaced by the one currently standing. Calogredes said watching the whole project finally come together was long, but worth it in the end. The classic images that now surround the chapel walls are well known to the priest, who is able to read off the stories as if they came straight from the Bible. 

The priest said the chapel is based on the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, which was built by the Byzantine emperor, Justinian I, in the 6th century. That church now exists as a museum in Istanbul, but its re-creation in America is finally coming together with the finishing of the iconography.

“I derive the greatest satisfaction depicting the icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child,” said iconographer Christos Palaioxaris, his words translated by Calogredes. “That icon is in the holy mountain in Greece, Mount Athos.”

The work is part religiosity and art, a job that is at times monotonous in getting every detail of the icons right but, in other ways, soul touching.

“Although it’s very tedious work, I derive satisfaction in putting up works of art that are immortal and will be present for many years,” Gkinos said.

From left, Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation; Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy; and Rev. Bette Sohm, pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church with the $35,000 check. Photo from St. Paul's United Methodist Church

A Northport congregation’s prayers for help to save its historic steeple have not fallen on deaf ears.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church received a $35,000 grant from New York Landmark Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program Dec. 4. The funds from the nonprofit organization, whose mission is to preserve and revitalize architecturally significant buildings, will be used to help restore the church’s historic steeple that towers over Northport village.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Northport. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“We’re absolutely thrilled to hear that we’ve earned this to fund the steeple work,” said Greg Polli, chairman of St. Paul’s board of trustees.

St. Paul’s church, originally built in 1873, is a red-brick late Greek Revival-style church designed by local architect and builder B.T. Robbins. Rising from the building is the iconic, white-painted wooden shutter board steeple capped with a copper dome.

“Long Island’s long history is reflected in its religious architecture,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “The conservancy is pleased to be able to help this remarkable building continue to serve [its] congregations and communities.”

The Conservancy’s Sacred Sites grants are supported by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, a Hampton Bays nonprofit that supports the study of New York State history.

The bell tower’s issues date back more than a decade. Parishioner Alex Edwards-Bourdrez, a member of the church for 26 years, said churchgoers noticed rainwater was leaking into the sanctuary, but determining the source of the issue took a lot of guess work. For nearly a decade, St. Paul’s churchgoers used a system of pots and pans to catch the water and even went as far as to replace the building’s roof without solving the issue.

A stained glass window in the church’s sanctuary. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“That’s when we realized the real problem was the steeple,” said Pastor Kristina Hansen, former religious leader of St. Paul’s. “The steeple was the culprit all along.”

The leak gradually limited the church’s activities, according to Edwards-Bourdrez, restricting use of the balcony for seating and preventing performances of its bell choir during inclement weather. St. Paul’s launched a successful capital campaign in October 2017 that exceeded its original goal of raising $300,000, according to Polli, to make much-needed structural repairs that included the steeple, securing its aging stained-glass windows and upgrading its bathrooms to be handicapped accessible.

“Before we began the formal capital campaign, we communicated to our congregation what we wanted to do, asked what they wanted to do and what our priorities should be,” he said. “The steeple was the top priority.”

Polli said the church has received a preliminary estimate of $150,000 to repair the structure and hopes to start work in the early spring of 2019. Some interior projects, like the renovations of the womens bathroom, have already been completed.

Through Compassion International, Mount Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ can give clean water to communities in need

Sylvia, on right, passes a sponge to Natalie as the pair help youth group leader Michael Clark scrub down a car. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

The soap suds were flying as young members of a Mount Sinai church hosed down dozens of cars this past Saturday to better the lives of children in need around the world.

During a car wash fundraiser Aug. 12 on the grounds of the Mount Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ on North Country Road, members of the church’s youth group cleaned cars for three hours and raised $320 in donations. All proceeds are going toward clean and safe water filtration systems for impoverished communities in faraway countries.

Natalie hoses off a car during the Mount Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ fundraiser. Photo by Kevin Redding

In these areas, which include villages in Africa, Asia and South America, life-threatening diseases emerge from contaminated waters, taking the lives of a child every 15 seconds.

From the money raised, four $79 filtration systems will be purchased and delivered to these communities in need by Compassion International, a child-advocacy organization that’s been helping the poor worldwide since 1952.

Each village will receive a filtration system which also includes two buckets, a hose and training on how to maintain it so it can provide a lifetime supply of water.

“We got to choose what we wanted the money to go for,” Natalie, a 12-year-old church member from Rocky Point, said during the car wash.

When she and others in the youth group, which is made up of fifth through 12th grade students from five local school districts, saw the water initiative among a long list of others on the Compassion International website, Natalie said it immediately excited them.

“A lot of people are getting sick because they’re drinking dirty water, so we chose to do something to give them clean water,” she said “It makes me really happy to know someone else is going to have a better life because of this. It’s one of my life goals to help people around me, and make the world a better place.”

Natalie’s youth group friend Sylvia, 12, from Selden, said she was also moved  by the idea, and decided to join the cause.

Mount Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ youth group leaders Michael Clark and Mary Larson helped put together a car wash to raise money for water filtration systems in needy communities. Photo by Kevin Redding

“To me that’s just incredible,” Compassion International communications director Tim Glenn said upon hearing about the car wash. “To see youth — 10- to 12-year-olds — come together to raise money to change a family’s life like that — I just love that. In 2017, a day and age where we’re told to think of ourselves first, there are teenagers and young people out there who are putting the needs of others first, to make sure their basic needs are met.”

Mount Sinai Congregational began its partnership with Compassion International roughly a year ago when a member on the church’s Board of Christian Outreach decided to sponsor an 8-year-old girl from Kenya named Kanana Ferry through the organization.

A first-grader living in the village of Ruiri, Ferry has become an honorary member of the church’s youth group through letter correspondence and is frequently provided tuition assistance, books and games.

“From there, the kids got interested and thought that any child should have water, any child should be able to go to school; they’d say ‘let’s do more,’” said Mary Larson, one of the youth group leaders. “I’m so proud of them that they’re taking their Saturday to do this. It’s important to help those who are marginalized, but they’re also working
together to get this done.”

While Natalie, Sylvia and 10-year-old Jake scrubbed Toyotas and Mercedes with sponges and sprayed windshields and each other with water, other kids held up signs on the side of the road waving more cars in.

“In a few hours of the day, a world change can be made,” said Jake, from Stony Brook,  before washing down a pickup truck.

Jake smiles as he washes a car during the fundraising event for water filtration systems for communities in need. Photo by Kevin Redding

Earlier this year, the kids raised more than $200 to donate chickens and miscellaneous supplies to help families in need, and regularly host fundraisers to pay for mission trips.

Youth group leader Stephanie Clark, who grew up attending the Mount Sinai church, said she’s always happy to see how enthusiastic the kids are about helping others.

“It’s very exciting,” said Clark, whose husband Michael also became a youth leader. “I think it’s good to have a community like this growing up. And growing up in this church, when I was young, I looked up to older members and now they look up to older members. That’s just how we are.”

Glenn said he personally visited some of the poor villages in South America and witnessed how much the water filters boost the morale of families. Each filter produces up to one million gallons of clean water and lasts years, he said.

“I want to thank the youth group and church so much for stepping up and changing the lives of families,” Glenn said. “Thank you for thinking beyond yourselves and taking the time out of your busy schedules to do something like this for others you may never meet.”

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The Rev. Mary Speers says the Setauket Presbyterian Church is in a “listening phase” when it comes to mapping out a future with its share of a $100 million trust from the Gillespie family. Photo by Phil Corso

A $100 million trust has the Setauket Presbyterian Church community’s collective ear.

Along with five other philanthropic entities, the church was named a beneficiary of a $100 million charitable trust from the estates of Kingsley Gillespie and his son, Kenyon Gillespie, earlier this spring. The Rev. Mary Speers described the big news as if she were expecting a newborn baby, referring to the trust as “an incredible gift” that will change the church in more ways than they can even anticipate.

“Think about what happens when you’re expecting a baby — especially the first one,” she said. “You’re excited — you don’t want to get too excited too fast — but you can’t help yourself … it’s exciting.”

The gift carried on the philanthropic contributions that both the Kingsley and Kenyon Gillespie families have made, keeping the arts, community service and faith strong.

The charitable trust came as a result of Kenyon Gillespie’s death in March 2015, which built upon the success of his father Kingsley Gillespie and mother Doris Kenyon, who both died in the 1980s.

The Gillespie family's connection to the Setauket church is on display on a baptismal font. Photo by Phil Corso
The Gillespie family’s connection to the Setauket church is on display on a baptismal font. Photo by Phil Corso

The church and the nearby Long Island Museum were named beneficiaries along with MIT, Stamford Hospital, The Rotary Club of Stamford and The First Presbyterian Church of Stamford and will be receiving income earned by the $100 million trust. Stamford Hospital will be getting the biggest share of 50 percent, while the five others will receive 10 percent of the annual 5 percent distribution required by law of such trusts every year.

“It was a total surprise,” Speers said of the Setauket church learning of its role in the trust. “It took a long time for us to wrap our heads around it. We’re still trying to wrap our heads around it.”

In an interview, Speers said one of the biggest challenges facing the church would be making sure the money is used to enhance the community’s culture of participation. She said the entire congregation was in a “listening phase” since learning of the trust, soaking up as much information as possible before making any big decisions.

“We want to think of this as seed money and incentive money, rather than turning ourselves into a grant foundation,” she said. “The Gillespie family singled out the church as something distinct, and we’re trying to be faithful to that — to be part of the fabric of a healthy society.”

The Rev. Mary Speers says the Setauket Presbyterian Church is in a “listening phase” when it comes to mapping out a future with its share of a $100 million trust from the Gillespie family. Photo by Phil Corso
The Rev. Mary Speers says the Setauket Presbyterian Church is in a “listening phase” when it comes to mapping out a future with its share of a $100 million trust from the Gillespie family. Photo by Phil Corso

Speers said she hoped the influx of money would help strengthen integral pieces of the church’s mission that are already in place, like its open door exchange, which provides furniture to those in need. Doris Kenyon was born in 1900 in Brooklyn, but spent summers as a child in Old Field before moving there in the 1930s. She had a lifelong affection for the Three Village community, the Long Island Museum said in a press release. She was married to Kingsley Gillespie, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the two built their family in the Three Village area before retiring to Florida.

Speers said she was initially unsure of exactly how connected the Gillespie family was to the church so many decades ago, but that confusion was quickly squashed when she realized the name of Joan Kenyon Gillespie — Kingsley’s daughter — on a baptismal font that was gifted in her honor after her 1959 death.

“They were clearly a big part of this community — they loved this community,” she said.

The Setauket Presbyterian Church, founded in 1660, will benefit considerably through the charitable trust. The institution, located on the village green at Caroline Avenue in Setauket, has been a longtime home for more than 500 people of faith.

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Joselo Lucero speaks during a Bethel AME Church program about building bridges during Black History Month. Photo from Tom Lyon

By Tom Lyon

Members of Setauket’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church hosted a community forum last Saturday to conclude Black History Month with a time of reflection about violence and its aftermath.

The event was a follow-up to last June’s memorial gathering held just three days after the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Nine people, some related to Bethel church members, died in the church’s sanctuary, yet their families spoke out for healing and forgiveness. Actions resulting from the tragedy included the removal of the Confederate battle flag from many public places across the South.

The 80 audience members reflected personally about the main themes of how we can change in response to tragic events and of building bridges throughout our communities to prevent future violence.

A featured speaker was Joselo Lucero, whose brother Marcelo, an Ecuadorean immigrant, was murdered in a Patchogue hate crime six years ago. Joselo Lucero has since become a champion against hate crimes and for tolerance, and has presented programs to thousands of Long Island students. At Bethel AME, he spoke of his family’s loss and how the village of Patchogue now holds an annual vigil in remembrance of the tragedy.

Jennifer Bradshaw, an assistant superintendent in the Smithtown school district, said, “It was so empowering to be surrounded by people dedicated to not just identify societal problems, but to work actively to solve them … to sit down and talk honestly, yet hopefully about building bridges across differences.”

Susan Feretti, of Setauket, said, “The conversation began here today is the beginning of neighbors and groups building bridges … the root of healing both locally and globally. I look forward to what lies ahead.”

Rev. Greg Leonard added that, “Based upon the very positive responses from the audience, and a questionnaire distributed, a task force is being formed to explore ways to hold more ‘building bridges’ events in the future. All community members are invited to join.”

Tom Lyon is a program director at Lift Up Long Island, a group that teaches leadership skills to youth.

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Bethel AME Church in Setauket. File photo by Alyssa Melillo

“It changed, so how can we?”

That is the question Rev. Greg Leonard of Setauket’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church has asked the Three Village community, and that is the question residents will have the chance to answer at a special service planned for next week. Leonard and more than 100 members of his church hosted a moving ceremony in the aftermath of June’s horrific shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and he said Black History Month was an appropriate time to reflect.

“At the previous meeting, we started to build bridges to one another and we want to continue doing this,” he said. “And with this being Black History Month, Bethel wanted to take leadership and hold an event at which all people — because black history isn’t just for black people — can come together.”

Bethel AME scheduled the gathering for Saturday, Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. at the church, located at 33 Christian Ave. in Setauket.

Rev. Gregory Leonard leads a service at Bethel AME Church in Setauket. File photo by Alyssa Melillo
Rev. Gregory Leonard leads a service at Bethel AME Church in Setauket. File photo by Alyssa Melillo

The event flyer that Bethel AME Church has been distributed promoted the hash tag #PrayForCharleston, which went viral following the June 17, 2015 shooting that killed nine African Americans at a church in South Carolina. The flyer also challenged the Three Village community with moving the dialogue forward to address racial issues and injustice across America.

“The primary issue we’re talking about is change,” Leonard said. “It’s about how this change happens on a community-wide basis, and also on an individual basis.”

North Shore native Leroy White lost his second cousin DePayne Middleton Doctor in the tragedy and said the outpouring of support from Three Village families was overwhelming in the days following the shooting.

“What we saw was a community coming together so well that it was almost unbelievable,” White said in an interview in June. “The response was so overwhelming that we were taken aback by the number of people who showed up. It showed me that this is one of the better communities in America.”

Since the shooting, Leonard said he has already seen strides made across the country to enhance the discussion about race in America. He cited the removal of the Confederate flag outside a state building in South Carolina back in July as a pivotal moment showing what could be achieved through common understanding.

“That was a revolutionary moment,” he said. “I think no matter how people might have felt, the remembrance of the tragedy and also the great grace the people had in terms of forgiveness after the fact can begin to build bridges, even to people who feel they might oppose your stance on any particular matter.”

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Ukrainian Easter eggs are decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs using a wax-resist (batik) method. Photo from RBCC

Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church, located at the corner of Edgewater and Mayflower Avenues in Smithtown, invites the community to take part in its 5th annual Traditional Ukrainian Easter Egg (Pysanky) workshop on March 6 and 13 from 1 to 3 p.m.

The two-day workshop, which will take place in the church’s Social Hall, is open to all levels of experience. Learn and complete your first egg, discover new patterns and tips or show your skills and enjoy the company. Bring your dyes and tools or start fresh with a new kit, available for an additional $15. Each participant must bring a candle in a holder, pencils and a roll of paper towels.

Two day class fee is $20. Advance registration is required by calling Joanne at 631-332-1449 after 6:30 p.m. or email hapinred@juno.com. Deadline to register is Feb. 19.

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Diane Burkhardt, a member of the North Shore United Methodist Church for the last 11 years, is seen below smiling with children she helps through the organization Life and Hop Haiti. Photo from Hal Low

Don’t let its size fool you — the North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River may be small, but the variety of outreach and support programs it has reaches across the Island.

“Sometimes there are certain people who are going through a difficult time and I think extending a hand and caring helps restore some hope that things are going to be okay,” said Diane Burkhardt, a member of the church for 11 years who is a retired Shoreham-Wading River middle school teacher. “People are so appreciative and thankful, which makes the whole experience gratifying and fulfilling. It makes you really appreciate what you have, which is humbling.”

Burkhardt said she is fortunate enough to be the team leader for the church’s outreach program, working on volunteer efforts like the Helping Hands Fund, which includes a food pantry that assists about 50 families in the Shoreham-Wading River area on a regular basis, and its back-to-school project, which provided school supplies to 30 children in need this past September.

Volunteers also deliver food to people’s homes, drive those in need to doctor’s appointments, help out with the church’s thrift shop, and deliver meals to and spend time with residents of Maureen’s Haven, a shelter service for homeless adults on the East End.

The North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River is involved in a myriad of projects from helping its church members to the needy across Long Island. Photo by Giselle Barkley
The North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River is involved in a myriad of projects from helping its church members to the needy across Long Island. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“Food is tangible, but what comes with it is the intangible quality of hope,” Burkhardt said. “I’m one of a dozen or so active members that are retired and put in a lot of hours because we feel we were all given gifts and skills that can be put to good use helping people.”

Linda McCall, of Center Moriches, has been attending North Shore United Methodist for four years and said she most enjoys spending her time helping those at Maureen’s Haven in Riverhead, while also volunteering through Helping Hands to provide gifts to children and meals to families around Christmas.

“It’s a very small church, and for such a small church we have so many outreach programs going that I found it almost impossible not to get involved,” she said. “It’s one of the things that keep me happy to be here on the Island. I moved here from Las Vegas, so I don’t have any family here, and the church has become my family. Volunteering fills my days with joy and happiness.”

Priscilla Hartman, a Shoreham resident who has been attending services for the last 35 years, said that as the church’s team leader for its membership care program, she finds it rewarding when she can help someone.

The program helps church members get to the pharmacy when they are temporarily ill, don’t have transportation or otherwise can’t leave the house. Volunteers also cook for them or clean their houses.

“It’s a great feeling when we’re helping a homeless person or someone who is down on their luck and seeing them get back on their feet,” she said. “I’m glad that my church is very ministry-oriented. I think it’s a good way for us to act. We’re a small church, but there’s nothing too large for us to take on.”

One example is the church’s partnering with Life and Hope Haiti, an organization founded by Lucia Anglade of West Babylon, who formed the Eben Ezer School in her hometown of Milot, Haiti.

Donna Eddy, who runs a craft group and is also involved with Maureen’s Haven and the thrift shop, said it’s these relationships people make with other community members and those they help that count in life and define who they are.

“I think we are all wired to need and to learn from each other,” she said. “You can’t love, have forgiveness, experience kindness, faithfulness and unselfishness unless you’re involved in the community. People need other people.”

And one person everyone at North Shore United Methodist agreed they need, is Burkhardt.

The North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River gets together food for the less fortunate during the holidays. Photo from Hal Low
The North Shore United Methodist Church in Wading River gets together food for the less fortunate during the holidays. Photo from Hal Low

“She has an incredible amount of energy and her enthusiasm is infectious,” Pastor Hal Low said. “Nothing ever seems to daunt her. She’s an inspiration to others, including myself.”

Eddy agrees.

“She’s focused, driven and she makes you want to be the best that you can be and give all that you can, because that’s what she does,” she said. “She’s a wonderful model She gives selflessly her time, her energy. If you need something, Diane will be there. You can count on her.”

But Burkhardt doesn’t want to take any of the credit, because she said without the rest of the organization, there would be no outreach ministry.

“I’m part of a whole congregation and I couldn’t do anything alone,” she said, adding that other churchgoers also help by recycling cans and bottles to raise money for lunches for the children in Haiti for instance. Members are also currently providing dinner to children whose parents are both in the hospital while the father is ill, and have been helping transport a man in Bellport, previously of Maureen’s Haven and a home in Middle Island, to and from Sunday services since 2011.

Burkhardt said that she frequently recalls things Shoreham resident and longtime churchgoer Doris Olson used to tell her when she was heavily involved in outreach in her younger years.

“Whenever I’m dealing with someone that can maybe be hard to deal with, she always said, ‘God made that person, too,’ and that brings me right back in touch with what I’m really doing and why I’m going it,” Burkhardt said. “Every day, try to be a blessing to someone else.”

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A rabbit is held during a previous year’s blessing of the animals service at the Setauket Presbyterian Church, where the third annual event is slated for Christmas Eve. Photo from Mary Speers

The Setauket Presbyterian Church will hold its third annual family-friendly Christmas Eve manger service, with carols and blessing of animals, at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24.

On the first Christmas Eve, it was the animals that made room in their stable for Mary and Joseph, the church said, in explanation of the manger service. According to the old carol, it was the donkey that carried a very pregnant Mary all the way to Bethlehem. It was the cow who gave the baby her manger, full of hay, for his bed; the sheep who gave wool to keep him warm; the doves who sang him to sleep. The world wasn’t that different then from the way it is now. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, as the day gives way to night, this will be a time to gather and give thanks for the hospitality of the friendly beasts, the first to welcome the unknown baby to the world, and for the friendly beasts who warm our homes and our hearts today. In our uncertain world, they teach us everything we need to know about steadfast hope, unflagging patience and unconditional love.

Children from the Setauket Presbyterian Children’s Choir will sing “The Friendly Beasts,” in costume. Children of all ages, as well as animals of (almost) all sizes, are invited to come with their adult humans to the Setauket Presbyterian Church, 5 Caroline Ave. on the Village Green in Setauket, Thursday, Dec. 24, at 4:30 p.m.

St. Louis de Montfort Roman Catholic Church in Sound Beach provides food for those in need. Photo by Giselle Barkley

A full stomach may hurt sometimes, but not around the holidays.

The holiday season is typically the busiest time of year for food pantries like those at the Sound Beach Community Church and St. Louis de Montfort Roman Catholic Church in Sound Beach. Each year the Sound Beach Civic Association sponsors one family from each church during the holidays. In light of this, Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach Civic Association, said they thought their meeting on Monday, Nov. 9, was a good opportunity to discuss the churches’ work.

St. Louis de Montfort is no stranger to running a pantry. According to Jane Guido, the church’s outreach director, the facility established its pantry around 25 years ago. Around 150 families are registered for the pantry services at the church. The church saw an increase in those in need during the recession when countless businesses downsized staff and many were left without a job.

“A lot of our local families who were okay now find themselves without a job or [they’re] getting a job with less pay,” Guido said. “With the high cost of living on Long Island, it makes it very difficult to take care of the bills and the food.”

Though St. Louis de Montfort doesn’t prevent people of different faiths from using its pantry services, community members must live within the areas the church serves. This includes Sound Beach, Mount Sinai and Miller Place. While the church receives monetary donations and local organizations like schools, the fire department and the Girls and Boys Scouts donate food, Long Island Cares provides a good portion of food for both church pantries.

According to Hunger in America 2014, around 88 percent of households are food insecure within the Long Island Cares and Island Harvest area.

“It’s really sad to know that in an area that’s pretty well off, we need two pantries,” Ruberto said.

Pastor John D’Eletto of the Sound Beach Community Church said various organizations also donate food to his establishment. Members of the church also support by donating money, which goes toward buying food for the pantry. According to D’Eletto, the church’s five-year-old pantry serves 10 to 15 families weekly.

“We feel that because we’re a church, we have to go above and beyond just giving people food,” D’Eletto said. “Because we do care — we want to focus on the spiritual aspect of the people too — not just giving them physical things.”

D’Eletto’s church will also cater to residents facing additional hardships through prayer, to help them through their difficulties.

But one of the more difficult times for families to put food on the table doesn’t stop with the holidays. Ruberto said January and February are also difficult months for food pantries. According to the Sound Beach civic president, food donations slow down significantly following the holiday season.

“Yes, we’re all very generous over the holidays, but remember in February they still need food,” she said.

Guido added that pantries are an asset to the communities they serve.

“They know they have a place to go and get food … We live in a remote area [and] there’s not [many] places for people go,” Guido said. “There are soup kitchens, which are a blessing, but that’s only one day a week and one meal a day, so the pantry supplements that also.”