Community-led initiative supports those experiencing homelessness

Jessica Woolford donating food to the shelter in Riverdale for Mother’s Day.
Photos by Jason Cohen

While many New Yorkers have a gut dismay of shelters coming to their neighborhood — often with misguided stereotypes of shelter residents — one group of Bronx residents have taken the opposite approach by embracing those experiencing homelessness. 

Riverdale resident Jessica Woolford helped start a community-based initiative in Kingsbridge/Riverdale during the pandemic, which delivers thousands of pounds of fresh produce to residents at a family shelter on Broadway.

She teamed up with the Hunts Point Produce vendors and a local synagogue, Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel of Riverdale, and has so far made three donations to the shelter. To date, Woolford and her team of volunteers have delivered over 18,000 pounds of fresh produce to local families at the shelter and throughout Kingsbridge.

Her latest delivery was a special as Woolford and her team dropped off extra gift baskets for Mother’s Day in addition to food.

Cupcakes for Mother’s Day

“As we reflect on the past year in which our dedicated frontline staff and provider-partners worked together to support New Yorkers in need during this crisis, we are also reminded of the invaluable role community partnerships have played in helping vulnerable neighbors get back on their feet,” said Department of Social Services-Department of Homeless Services (DSS-DHS) Administrator Joslyn Carter. “The Hunts Point Produce Market, CSAIR synagogue, and Jessica Woolford and her team of volunteers exemplify the best of New York City in challenging times — working together to uplift vulnerable neighbors, including the families who we serve while continuing to ensure that these families are integrated into the fabric of the community.

Woolford visits her grandmother often at 238 St. and sensed during the past 15 months the need to help people. She told the Bronx Times that just because these people live in a shelter it doesn’t make them any worse.

Produce being delivered to the shelter

“I think it’s important for people to recognize that these families are part of the fabric of the community,” she stressed. “These are my neighbors.”

One family who was the recipient of the donation is Victoria Brown and her two sons, Nassir and Cameron. Brown, originally from Morris Park, moved to the shelter in October 2020.

When she first got there she was nervous. But now is glad she calls Riverdale home.

“It was a sense of relief,” she stated. “I’ve been thanking God I have somewhere safe to stay with my family.”

Food for the families

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