August 20

Giving Back When It’s Hard to Get Close

How do you support those in need when it is so difficult to get close?  Freddie Fiorentino, founder of Cypress Missions, and a team of volunteers recently found a way to renovate the Bethel AME Church Ford Center’s food pantry and clothing closet on Atkins Avenue in Asbury Park.

Usually, Fiorentino and his volunteers dispatch to international locations in urgent need like Haiti, Bahamas or a refugee home in England.  Travel restrictions grounded their give-back but not their spirit and enthusiasm.

Cypress Missions’ volunteers at the Bethel AME Church food pantry: Sue Lindstrom, Freddie Fiorentino, Doug Buechler, John Oliveira, Samantha Oliveira, TJ Oliveira, Nicole Falk and Taryn Oliveira; Rod Brennan (not pictured)

“COVID didn’t stop us from wanting to help people,” said Fiorentino.  “Every Wednesday, this food pantry has a lines of people waiting past Springwood Avenue two hours before it opens.  When we learned this historic building could use some updating to serve the community better, now and for years to come, we mobilized.”

With strict screening and restrictions on the volunteer ‘pod’ to ensure the wellness of everyone, the team updated this 1500 square foot building’s infrastructure as well as service capacity.  In 10 hot days, volunteers painted the interior and exterior, made repairs, updated the air conditioning, installed shelving and gave the kitchen facilities a light makeover. 

The site of the food pantry holds a place in history for music lovers.  In December 1928, Fats Waller and Andy Razaf wrote the Grammy Hall of Fame song “Honeysuckle Rose,” which has been recorded by nearly 500 artists. Cypress Missions’ volunteers installed a brass plaque to commemorate the dedication of the property by the Asbury Park Historical Society and Asbury Park Museum. 

The volunteers for this project came from St. Paul’s church in Brick.  Under the guidance of Fiorentino, Cypress Missions welcomes all volunteers; no experience necessary.  One hundred percent of donations go directly to project supplies.

“We started our work 25 years ago helping our Jersey Shore community and its great to have the opportunity to refocus on our own backyard,” said Fiorentino.  “It has been nothing but pure joy for us to give back.”

To volunteer, donate to or learn more about Cypress Missions here.

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