Mission serves Riverhead’s needy each Friday; but complaints have followed

04/08/2011 7:08 AM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Lighthouse Mission group hands out food and clothes for an hour every Friday downtown.

Every Friday at noon, more than 100 people line up outside a box truck behind the old Swezey’s building in downtown Riverhead.

There they receive free food or clothes. And perhaps they’ll listen to a short sermon.

A Bellport-based Christian group called Lighthouse Mission has been bringing what they call a “mobile food pantry” to the riverfront since November, said Pastor Enrique Carbajal, an outreach coordinator for the group.

“We feed the poor and we preach about the Lord,” he said Friday. “That’s what we do.”

Lighthouse now has nine locations in Suffolk County where it brings its mobile food pantry one day a week for one hour, but they’ve only been in Riverhead since November. The other sites are in Coram, Ronkonkoma, Islip, Wyandanch, Bellport, Shirley, Port Jefferson and Patchogue, Pastor Enrique said.

The number of people coming to Lighthouse’s once-a-week pantries on Long Island has increased by 37 percent over the past year, the pastor said.

“People are struggling,” he said. “We get all kinds of people. Even people who have a nice car or a nice house are struggling and living check by check and week by week. We will help anyone. If someone comes here in a BMW, we will give him food. If someone comes on a bicycle, we will give him food. We don’t ask.”

“The economy is getting very bad and things are getting very tight,” said Gale Jones of Riverhead, who received food Friday. “This helps a lot.”

Ms. Jones said she’s lived in Riverhead her whole life and works as a custodian.

“It’s not enough to have a job,” she said. “ Working one job out here on the island is not enough.”

Before giving out the food, a Lighthouse representative will say a short prayer in both English and Spanish, as many of the people on line are Spanish-speaking. Pastor Enrique said they pray for the people and they also are available to help them get any other assistance they might need.

Why did Lighthouse pick Riverhead?

“We try to go to areas where there is more need and we try to pick parking lots like this one, to be fully accessible and so everyone will see us,” Pastor Enrique said.

When the Riverhead program started in November, only about 57 people showed up, but word spread quickly, Pastor Enrique said. “We’ve had as many as 260 people,” he said. “Today, we’ll have about 150 people.”

But because the demand is growing so quickly, town officials are in the process of finding a better location for the needy to gather each week.

“They are doing very good work for the community but I think they’ve gotten a lot bigger than we’d like,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. He said in an interview that the town hasn’t talked to Lighthouse yet about finding an alternate location but plans to, because some of the downtown business owners have complained.

“Anytime you have 200 men standing in one area waiting for something, whatever it might be, people may be frightened,” Mr. Walter said. “So I’m going to ask them to relocate.”

He said he hasn’t come up with an alternate location yet but has several he plans to suggest.

Pastor Enrique said the group had originally been setting up on the west end of the Peconic River parking lot, where there are more open stores, but moved behind the Swezey’s building, which is surrounded by empty stores, following complaints from business owners on the west end.

“We do this for just one hour on Fridays, from 12 to 1,” Pastor Enrique said. “Everything is empty. I don’t know who we are bothering. No one uses the empty Swezey’s building. It has been empty for six or seven years.

“We want to be a blessing to the community. We don’t want to be a burden. When we pack up and leave, we try to leave it as clean as it was.”

He said Lighthouse is even willing to paint over the graffiti on buildings downtown if the town wants.

“We can do that,” he said. “We have a lot of volunteers.”

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195 Comment

  • THey need to move the soup line to the Southampton civic center on Flanders Rd. While the economy has hit everyone, why do I think the BMW drivers are outnumbered by illegals who rent in Flanders?

  • Whether illegals or the BMW drivers are picking up food. We are all human and need food to eat. The fact that people think its hurting their business and wanting LightHouse Missions to move is really sad. If people are able to get free food they have money to pay their bills and not rob your stores, you should be happy about that. 1 hour a week is nothing horrible to complain about. LightHouse is obviously not limiting race, gender, class or emploment when people pick their food up and neither should anyone. They enable people from all backgrounds feed their family and help meet their legit needs, they need to eat! If you think my removing LightHouse from your area you are fools! If people can’t afford to buy food, what do you think will happen if someone isn’t around to meet their food needs. Higher crime, more people on the streets, whether its the young kids on the streets because their parents have to work extra hours or the fact that they lose their housing because they have to feed their family and have to choose between food and housing. I pray that God increases LightHouse Missions territory!! May God move mightly on your behave, LightHouse!!!

  • Anyone that complains about folks feeding the hungry has a problem. Have some compassion.

  • Perhaps the Supervisor of Sleaze could display the same amount of compassion for the needy as he has for his disgraced Finance Admistrator now under investigation.

    I’m sure the costs taxpayers will be paying for the investigation with Walter’s Crookhaven Cronies and audits could feed an army for two years.

  • Get a grip RonHarirEsq

  • Sean Walter needs to go ASAP. Can anyone tell me what he has done that is good for the town? Name one thing? Go ahead….

  • Thank God To the Lighthouse Mission I have food to feed my family and Mr. Walters there are not 200 hundred men but maybe 200 family that need for and maybe they should do more of that in Riverhead since they are not in anyones way what could be the problem and really if you are complaining maybe you should feel the pinch most family are feeling right now Let the lighthouse Mission feed you people

  • God bless The Lighthouse Mission! They are doing what the church is called to do. They are operating behind an empty building in a public parking lot so why the grief? Does this statement say it all? “…I think they’ve gotten a lot bigger than we’d like,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.
    Persoanlly, I think the government has gotten a lot bigger than we’d like.

  • For an educated person, Sean Walter does not sound too intelligent. He has opened his mouth and inserted his dumb foot, again!!

  • Hmm…maybe Lighthouse can move inside that empty building, then the people could come inside and be warm too. :) God will make a way were there seems to be no way!! Blessing’s to lighthouse for serving the people and giving and showing the Love of Jesus <3

  • Ron…get thee to thy nearest Alliteration Anonymous meeting, forthwith!

  • I think Sean is worried it might disrupt all the busy downtown business traffic, or perhaps the mission is perceived as unfair competition to his restaurant owner buddies as well.

  • Seam must be listening to his polical conscience again. Where is he proposing to relocate this? Many of the homeless and poor do not have vehicles to transport them to a more remote location that wouldn’t bother local businesses like Tweeds. Show some compassion. One of them may some day be one of the poor employees you laid off……..

  • As is typical when an issue such as this comes up, people who have a connection with the mission spam lots of statements about families needing food, poor people, compassion. . . . I have as much compassion as the next person, I work with non English speakers helping them learn English, I am involved with literacy programs. I also see our town circling the bowl, and activities such as this don’t help.

  • “theyre getting a lot bigger than wed like”(whose this “we”)….too many poor people for you supervisor—-there just isnt “pseudo” 1%ERS in riverhead(or the world)200 men(i am sure you are exaggerating(i am sure that there were just as much women and children)standing in one area is frightening ……………I THINK TWO SUPERVISORS(also men) YOU AND SOUTHOLDS ARE FRIGHTENING. THE AREA THEY USE HAS BEEN EMPTY FOR SIX OR SEVEN YEARS(it has been desolute in this area since my mother bought me clothes at sears)DID YOU GET A PROPOSAL TO BUY THAT PROPERTY FROM AN out-of-towner OR ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE THE PROPOSAL IN THE NEAR FUTURE(if you havent already)DOES THIS all SOUND FAMILIAR (scott proposes to BUILD A VILLAGE GREEN(you guys are so incestuous(again NOT in the sexual context) they are even willing to remove graffiti(ANOTHERS FREE SPEECH) TO BE ABLE TO STAY AND HELP OTHERS.shame on you supervisors. shame on you walters!.(AND THAT INCLUDES YOU scott) like i commented to the chairman of the democratic party in southold——-COMMON WELFARE is not part of their agenda……..they are only concerned about that “delusional” 1%ERS AND THEIR “cliff noters”…….NO PEACE FOR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(yes that includes you scott)

  • PEACE TO THE LIGHTHOUSE MISSION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • educated……………please!!!!!!!! (something tells me he is a “cliff noter”)(READ ALL MY COMMENTS to find out what a “cliff noter ” is)peace.

  • HERE!!!! HERE!!!!!!!—-or maybe “THEY” themselves. what comes around goes around……..karma man!!!! will take care of the issue. peace.

  • you speak like a hypocrite!

  • Let me see: Lighthouse feeds the hungry.
    Come for one hour.
    They leave things as clean as it was.
    Are willing to paint over the graffiti.
    Has moved the location to behind Swezey’s.
    Swezey’s building is empty and everything around Swezy’s is empty.

    After working at Maureen’s Haven, and my Parish food pantry..I will vouch that there are hungry folks around. As I write this, I am sitting with a hot cup of coffee, in my office, very comfortable after a good nights sleep in a warm bed.


  • HERE!!!!HERE!!!!—–COMPASSION is NOT the mantra of the1%ERs——“THEY” only for there 1%!!

  • 1%ERs dont “do” good—– “THEY” ONLY say “good” things will be “done” to get your vote!!!!!!

  • HERE!!!!HERE!!!!!——“THEY” ARE an “incestuous” bunch(again i do not mean in the sexual context)(“cliff noters” i include here as well!)

  • REALLY!?!?!?

  • “DOUBLESPEAK”!!!!!!!!