BRICK – Seeds of Service (SOS) has been struggling to help some 1,200 families who are registered with the non-profit organization, which provides food and other services to families, students with special needs, and seniors citizens.
Much of the food they distribute comes from food drives run by schools, corporations, churches, grocery stores and others, which did not take place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
About half their budget comes from an Ebay store SOS operates on the second floor of their building, located at 725 Mantoloking Road (formerly Colony Market), but that was closed when everything started closing down at the beginning of the pandemic.
There were 74 special needs and at-risk behavior students from the Brick high schools who run the store and were forced to quarantine at home.
“SOS works very closely with the school system,” said Executive Director Christie Winters in a recent phone call. “We created a self-sustaining charity, where we gather the clothing, give it out to those who are in need, and the students run their Work Preparedness Program, where they learn all their work skills.”
The students and other volunteers help SOS with a myriad of programs, including running the food pantry, the clothing program, the community garden, the tool lending program, and more, she said.
“The worst of it all, is this place means so much to them, too, because they start with us freshman year and spend four years learning work skills with us,” Winters said.
“What we ended up doing was we developed “kit” boxes that we developed with Brick schools because we wanted to keep the students helping from home, which allows them to participate,” she said.
The boxes contain brochures that need to be folded, or items that need to be combined for Ebay, or tags that need to be cut out, supplies to create Thanksgiving cards and more, she said.
The students connect with the school district through Google Classrooms, Winters said.
As the public health crisis went on, the need for food rose “astronomically,” Winters said. Before the pandemic, the center was helping around 400 households a month. Now the need has grown to about 1,200 (mostly) Brick households, as other food pantries were shutting down, she said.
The largest increase for food requests was from the senior citizen population.
“We never had this many registered seniors with us,” she said. “Many who got laid off from their part-time, 10-hour a week jobs that would help them make ends meet with their social security, never got brought back. So we saw a jump in about 250 senior citizens.”
Their biggest expense is food. They get donations from Trader Joes, Brick ShopRite, Brick Costco and others. Brick High School science teacher John Lynch ran a Thanksgiving fundraiser.
SOS gave out some 720 food baskets in November, 610 thanksgiving baskets plus 58 hot Thanksgiving meals, Winters said.
For four to six months, SOS switched to delivering the food. During the summer months, the center depended heavily on many teachers who volunteered from Brick school district.
SOS began as a ministry of the Visitation Parish, which owns the building, but the non-profit has its own 501(c)(3).
SOS has launched an online fund-raiser where they hope to raise $100,000. As of December 9, they had raised some $23,000.
If you would like to donate, visit seedsofservice.help/seeds-of-hope-fundraiser.