BY JORDAN GIBBONS
‘Tis the season to help those in need and Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York is getting in the spirit a few days early this year.
On Dec. 22, the church will be holding its first “Christmas on Merrick” event to help the community by handing out food, clothing, toys and providing free healthcare screenings.
Traffic will be shutdown on Merrick Boulevard between 110th Road and 111th Avenue from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event will go from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Greater Allen received 800 boxes of food and toiletries from Feed the Children and is also getting food from City Harvest. Starbucks will have two coffee stations with snacks. Toys “R” Us donated 200 bags filled with unwrapped toys, including Power Rangers, Barbie dolls, puzzles and games. The NCAA also donated hundreds of items in clothing and merchandise.
EmblemHealth will be at the event helping residents sign up for healthcare and administering HIV/AIDS, blood pressure, diabetes and glucose screenings free of charge.
Rodeena Stephens, Greater Allen’s director of communications, said that this is part of four events funded by the church the Allen Acts Committee holds every year to reach out to help the community.
“We wanted to find a way to provide necessities to families during the Christmas season,” she said. “Everything that we’re doing is a church-wide community effort.”
Greater Allen is also partnering with WBLS/WLIB radio to broadcast the event live, host interviews and give out gift bags. The church will also have a DJ playing music.
At 1 p.m., the Rev. Floyd Flake and local politicians will walk through the crowd to hand out items to families.
Stephens said the church will reach out to local foster care facilities, as well as homeless and domestic violence centers to make sure they can take advantage of the giveaways.
“We’re trying to meet the needs of people who can benefit the most from these items,” she said.
The event is free, but families will need to visit the church office to reserve a ticket. They started with 800 tickets, which ensure that family will get a 15- to 25-lb. box of food or toiletries. Stephens said all people have to do is show identification and come down Monday through Thursday between 10 a.m. and noon or 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. until Dec. 18.
The only requirement to receive a toy or a gift bag is that each child needs to be present at the event.
If anyone is interested in donating unwrapped toys, gifts or gift cards, the church is accepting donations at the front desk daily between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Stephens said that if it rains, the event will still take place, but it will be moved into the banquet hall. She also said that if any food is left over at the end of the day, the church will open its doors and invite people inside to either eat or take it home.
“We want to do anything we can to help those in need during the holidays,” she said.
For more information, call (718) 206-4600, Ext. 3094. Greater Allen Cathedral is located at 110-31 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica.
Reach Reporter Jordan Gibbons at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 123, email@example.com or @jgibbons2.