Charity founder unfazed by food pantry fire

November 26, 2009 3:34:07 PM PST
The spirit of determination was on full display Thursday on Long Island. A food pantry in East Farmingdale was destroyed last week by fire. But the woman who runs it remains undaunted. No fire will quell her mission. The dinner guests at the Love and Mercy Fellowship Church hardly noticed, because Thanksgiving dinner didn't miss a beat.

Diane Dunne has just come off the worst week of her life, but you'd never know it.

"OK, some very sick person burnt this building down," she said. "They tried to destroy this work. Do I just sit back and say okay and cry like a little girl? Or do I rise up like a woman and say, wait a minute."

Her food pantry, which serves more than 1,000 people every week, was destroyed in a raging fire. The vast kitchen was wiped out, along with tons of fresh food.

It has been 10 days since the fire, and there are no arrests and no known suspects. The fire has been classified as arson, but the motive remains a mystery.

But Dunne is determined to carry on. This Thanksgiving, she volunteered at a friend's church, serving hot meals to dozens of people in Bay Shore.

"I have been by myself for too many Thanksgivings," Bay Shore resident Kenneth Lane said.

"Everybody needs someone, and these people are wonderful, that they reach out," resident Susan Striga said. Judy Bustamante is one of the volunteers.

"It's nice to see, it really is," she said. "It's a good thing, and everyone really does pull together."

"This is Thanksgiving week, and all the nice people will be out, giving food and sandwiches to the poor," Dunne said. "So this week, it's OK. I don't feel bad. My concern is next week."