Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
Olga Barretto is the Food Coordinator for the Holding Hands Ministry in Brooklyn, NY. Eight years ago Pastor Luke made an altar call for those that wanted to serve, Olga felt a kick in her chest. She waited in line after service to speak to Joel Matos, the director of the ministry. She received the time to show up and has been by his side ever since, even after having two knee surgeries.
Olga’s mom instilled the importance of feeding those less fortunate when she was just 10 years old. Her mom would see someone out of her window and send one of her kids downstairs with a plate of food. People would knock on their door when they were hungry. Olga recalls many nights that her mom would go to bed with a piece of bread and a cup of coffee just so she could feed someone else. Those values have stood with Olga to this day.
After serving for a couple of years, Olga felt burned out. Like so many of us she was questioning God if this was for her and asked for confirmation. One night she drove to Popeye’s to get dinner for her son. As she walked in, there was a pile of blankets on the floor covering a homeless man. She gave him the food and was so moved by his gratitude. Then she went back into the car and started crying. This was the confirmation she was looking for.
During The Pandemic
Eight years ago, there were 40 families that came to receive food once a week. After they finished serving there was a time of prayer and fellowship. The number of people increased over time to 350 families once a week before the pandemic. Once the pandemic hit the number of people exploded to nearly 2,000 families a week. The line stretches for blocks as people from all 5 boroughs are coming to be served. Many of the people are undocumented, they cannot receive any assistance from the government, so they wait for hours to be able to feed their families.
City Harvest has been consistent in providing the food for the pantry. There are deliveries on Thursdays and Fridays, all the volunteers are packing the food to prepare for Saturday. There are other days they receive deliveries earlier in the week, which enables the ministry to do a Pop-up Pantry. At least 500 families will rush to the pantry to receive food. The ministry also does home deliveries for those who are unable to come to the church for various reasons. The deliveries are made each day based on the zip code. They also share the overflow with other churches to provide food in their communities as well.
A Servant’s Heart
Olga is much more than the food coordinator, as she has a hand in it all. She was also instrumental in providing food that consisted of 3 meals per day and enough food for the week. She blushed as I told her that her title should be Operations Manager.
With so much on her plate we discussed the importance of self-care. She said that when there is a lot going on its worship music that clears her mind. The Pastors encouraged her to participate in the 24 hour prayer chain which helped her get her focus back, on why she does all that she does.
Olga is looking forward to getting back to normal when the team would have a time of prayer and fellowship. In the meantime, she is ready, willing and able to serve the community for such a time as this.
“I didn’t waste a day doing nothing. I made a difference in someone’s life and I can go to sleep knowing they won’t go hungry” ~Olga Barretto~
Holding Hands Ministry
If you or someone you know in the New York City area is in need of food or other services please contact the Holding Hands Ministry. The Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/hhmwhcc. They will be able to connect you with various resources including a hot shower. They are the real deal!
Food Pantries In NYC
Below is an interactive map that will help you locate a food pantry near you in NYC.
Food Insecurity In The U.S.A.
Below is an interactive map which shows the national rate of food insecurity.