Birthday present for the hungry

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Mother Teresa’s birthday was marked this year by a gesture that made her a religious force—the power of giving.

Bronxites paid tribute Monday Aug. 26 to the late, beatific missionary with a food drive.

At Lydig and Holland avenues, known as Mother Teresa Way, bundles of dry foods were cobbled for the Jewish Community Council of Pelham Parkway, home to a food pantry in short supply.

“We need more than one table, I have news for you,” said Edith Blitzer, head of the Pelham Parkway Neighborhood Association, proudly hauling a cart full of food to staffers for Councilman Jimmy Vacca.

As she accepted a plastic bag full of items from a generous passerby, packages of Cheerios, Barilla Pasta and assorted juices were prepped, later shuttled to the pantry.

For the past month Vacca used his office as a food depot, pleading for donations to feed the borough’s hungry.

Through social media and word of mouth, Vacca amassed hundreds of dollars of food in the name of the Blessed Mother of Calcutta.

It was enough for Joanne Arnott to stop by the drive to drop a package of goods for the borough’s famished.

“I’ve been down this road,” said Arnott, who brought her friend Karen Wagner Morrisey along.

Mother Teresa was a revered religious figure for her unblinking tour of some of the world’s most destitute locations, where poverty ran rampant.

“She helped those who did not have enough food on the table. Something many of us take for granted,” said Vacca, joined by Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj.

Gjonaj also turned his office into a drop-off site, a move certainly different from the years he first donated to the cause when he was simply a private citizen.

“We’ve come to a new height,” said Vacca of Gjonaj’s accomplishment as the state’s first Albanian assemblyman.

Gjonaj recalled his experience briefly meeting Mother Teresa when he was eight years old attending service.

“As she walked she actually put her hand on my head,” said Gjonaj. “It was one of those moments you don’t forget.”

The Aug. 26 news conference was also a call to folks to give as much as they can to a local pantry.

A report by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger estimated the Bronx as the epicenter to the city’s hunger population.

It’s something David Edelstein, the JCC executive director managing the pantry, certainly understands. He’s sees it on days when fresh parcels of food are delivered, drawing long lines that snake out the door.

“We get enough food for 200 households and within two days it’s gone,” said Edelstein, adding no one is turned away.

Vacca intends to continue the drive in hopes of keeping the pantry filled and reminding folks of Mother Teresa’s philanthropic spirit.

“Mother Teresa transcended religion,” said Vacca. “She’s a role model, regardless of faith.”

“Even for the atheists,” added Gjonaj.

The Jewish Community Council food pantry is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 1 pm-4 pm and by appointment. Their number is 718-792-4744.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3383
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