One woman’s passion for helping others has benefited many who are in need.
For the past 15 years, Susan Delgado has headed up the food pantry at St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church in Selden, and at 79 years old, she has no plans for slowing down.
Christina Rundberg, the church’s vestry clerk, said when the church decided to offer a food pantry, Delgado soon took over as coordinator.
“The food pantry has become her pride and joy and her baby,” Rundberg said.
Delgado and her husband John can be found working in the food pantry a few times a week, according to Rundberg. Susan Delgado coordinates pickups with drivers from the food banks Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, picks up food with her husband at various locations including Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach and ShopRite in Selden and stocks the shelves.
“I don’t know where she gets the energy,” Rundberg said.
The pantry that was initially opened only Fridays from 6 to 7 p.m. is now open on the same day from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m as well. Rundberg said the additional hours were added when Delgado was worried about people walking and riding bikes at night, especially during the winter months, and she decided it would be helpful to open it to the public on Friday mornings, too.
Rundberg, who volunteers in the pantry Friday nights, said it’s open to anyone in need, not just to congregants. When it comes to holidays, the vestry clerk said Delgado always ensures there are enough food items, so clients can have a Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter dinner. She also helps to raise funds and items for a local battered women’s shelter, coordinates an adopt-a-family program during the winter holidays to buy families in need gifts and helps to collect backpacks filled with school supplies for children in need before the school year starts.
Father Charles Schnabel, a retired priest who helps with church services, said he’s always impressed when laypeople keep a church going, and Delgado is no exception. He said there’s hardly a time he doesn’t see her there working.
“She is very well focused on this area of ministry, and it’s so needed today.”
— Father Charles Schnabel
“What I see in Sue is a woman of great faith and dedication, and it’s rooted, I think, in her faith and membership at St. Cuthbert’s,” he said, adding she’s emblematic of the church’s congregants.
He described Delgado as a quiet, unassuming person, who at the same time isn’t afraid to stand up and speak at services to inform church members about what is needed at the pantry, whether it be food, toiletries and even toilet paper. The priest said she sees those who stop by the pantry as more than clients, and he remembered one time when she made a plea to the church members and was near tears.
“She is very well focused on this area of ministry, and it’s so needed today,” he said.
Delgado’s daughter, Tracy LaStella, said in addition to volunteering at the pantry, her mother works full time for a local IRS office in its mail room. The pantry, the daughter said, on average serves 342 households and 274 individuals per week.
“Every time I go there I can’t even believe how many people need the help and that [the church is] able to help them and give them food,” LaStella said.
She said she always thought of food pantries as only having canned foods, and she’s amazed at the quality and variety of foods that are available at the St. Cuthbert’s food pantry.
She said her mother has also partnered with Middle Country Public Library, where LaStella serves as assistant director for youth services. Members of the teen advisory council there have helped stock the shelves of the pantry before Thanksgiving and make tote bags for the families to use to pick up food.
LaStella said people come up to her in the library all the time and tell her about her mother — and father as well.
“It just warms my heart that they’re doing such great work for the community that they live in, and we all grew up in, too,” she said, adding her mother has four children and seven grandchildren.
The daughter said talking about her mother’s good deeds makes her teary-eyed.
“From what I can remember as a child, she was always helping neighbors,” LaStella said. “She was always helping her sisters. If she grew up in this day and age, she probably would have been a social worker. She has a really big heart. She would give her coat off her back for somebody.”