God’s abundance shown in grocery bags and baby blankets

June 14, 2011 04:10 PM

By Pastor Charles Vogeley


As unemployment, under-employment and the recession affect more people, Lutheran congregations throughout Nassau County regularly partner with Lutheran Social Services of New York’s New Life Center in Uniondale. The New Life Center sponsors both a food program and a layette ministry. Requests for food steadily increase every year; our congregations respond in creative ways to meet those needs.


Participating congregations take turns stocking the pantry with non-perishables and the layette ministry with clothing, blankets, diapers, and toiletries. Every year the Ruth Circle of Our Saviour, Manhasset invites the Women of the ELCA groups of nearby congregations to a baby shower benefitting the New Life Center. Supporting congregations use different methods for collecting food. Our Redeemer, Seaford has a large collection container by its side entrance that is rarely empty.


grocery1Our Savior, Port Washington collects food by sponsoring “Grocery Bag Sunday.” Held at least twice a year, new, unused brown grocery sacks are obtained from one of the local chain supermarkets. Hylkje Halili, New Life Center’s coordinator, provides a “top ten” list of the most needed items. The printed list is stapled onto the sacks, and the bags are handed out as worshipers leave to live out our baptismal calling. Filled sacks are brought back on a specific date. The congregation invokes the Lord’s blessing upon sacks’ contents and upon the individuals and families receiving the groceries. Congregants load the sacks into their vehicles and transport them to Uniondale. The last “Grocery Bag Sunday” in March gathered over 600 pounds of food. At other times the offering exceeded 1,000 pounds!


Richard Marra, a retired pharmacist and vice president at Our Savior’s, regularly transports the grocery sacks. “This is a wonderful ministry. Families in need are fed, and we, who are often well-fed, are re-awakened to the Lord’s abundance to us,” he says. “As a health care professional, I appreciate that families at the Center choose their food items instead of being handed a bag of pre-selected foods, some of which they might not ever use. The New Life Center uses a more nutritional approach.”


For the past several years, “Grocery Bag Sunday” was conjoined with Father’s Day. To honor dads, opas, uncles, male baptismal sponsors, and the like, members were asked to donate a bag of groceries. This year they are asked to contribute $5 or more to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal. Our Savior will host additional “Grocery Bag Sundays” in the future as we continue to see God’s abundance in our lives.