A New York woman who lost her job is using some of her free time to help feed thousands of people in her community.
Sofia Moncayo leads a group of volunteers who give out food to those in need in a neighborhood in Queens. On a recent rainy day, a large crowd lined up outside the Mosaic West Queens Church to receive free food.
The team members helping Moncayo were wet, cold and tired. Some lifted heavy food containers while others separated items and removed snow from the street.
Moncayo led her team in prayer. “We’re super grateful for these people here. In Jesus’ name we pray,” she said. The group around her then cheered and added: “Amen.”
“Now,” Moncayo said, “let’s get to work.”
The helpers receive no money, but said they were just happy to be there for someone else that day.
Moncayo has led the food assistance program during the coronavirus pandemic. It launched in March and she took charge of the effort a month later. The program currently serves hundreds of people.
Moncayo has faced her own struggles during the pandemic. She was let go from her job at a building company and remains unemployed. She also has a martial arts business with her husband that has suffered financial difficulties.
But she has continued to raise money in the community and lead the effort to provide more than 1,000 boxes of food to families two times per week.
“I think helping others has to do something to your brain chemically because if we had not been doing everything that we’re doing, I think this would have been a much scarier time,” Moncayo said.
“Being able to dig in and help others, it really gives you perspective and helps you believe that you’re going to be OK too,” she added.
Most of the food is donated by a neighborhood restaurant and other businesses and organizations. There has also been help from the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Moncayo, who was born in Colombia, said she was moved to volunteer by her Christian faith, as well as her own experiences with food insecurity while growing up in New York. She noted that she used to join her family in lines to pick up bread and cheese from food programs. Sometimes she said she felt ashamed.
“One of the things that we wanted to make sure is that we don’t look at people on the pantry line as people that need food, and really focus on, ‘hey, these are our neighbors.’”
Neighborhood resident Carol Sullivan lost her job as a stage manager when New York theaters closed because of the pandemic. At first, she was not sure about receiving food from a pantry, but she said Moncayo and the other volunteers made her feel welcome.
“It has been a link to the community that I didn’t have before. And it also saves a lot of anxiety over having to have money to pay for food over having to pay for the bills,” Sullivan said.
“If you have a dollar, you have to stretch it in so many places. Having them has made the choice less stressful.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
grateful – adj. feeling or showing thanks
martial arts – n. several forms of fighting and self-defense that are widely practiced as a sport
perspective – n. a particular way of considering something
ashamed – adj. feeling guilty of embarrassed about something
pantry – n. a room or closet used for storage or from which food is brought to the table
focus – v. pay attention to something
stage – n. the part of a theater on which the acting takes place
anxiety – n. an uncomfortable feeling or nervousness about something
stress – n. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.