Coronavirus News: Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen answers the call amid pandemic

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically increased the need for and strain on food banks, the state's largest soup kitchen continues to answer the call.

The line stretches around the block at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in Chelsea, not due to the social distancing gaps but because of the need.

"We've never experienced anything like this," COO Michael Ottley said. "We served close to 38,000 meals in April, and that's a record for us."

The 40% increase has to do with need, but also because smaller pantries have closed as volunteers shelter at home. Holy Apostles is counting on its staff and a handful of volunteers, down from its usual 50 a day.

Ginger Pierce is one of those giving her time.

"Once it was clear I wasn't going to be working full time, I wanted to focus my energies on something positive," she said.

Pierce was the executive chef at the One Hotel in Midtown, but she was laid off as the virus hit. Now, she and her husband Preston Madson -- who is also a laid off chef -- take turns cooking and taking care of their kids.

"A lot of these organizations need money, but we all have different skills we can contribute," she said. "I feel we all have something to give, and it's just about tapping into that."

She knows that many people needing food are from her own industry.

"It also puts in perspective, it could be so much worse," she said. "Although I'm unemployed, I feel so fortunate.

And with the rent due and unemployment benefits trickling in, Holy Apostles is gearing up to serve even more meals -- and it's launching Operation Hopefull to raise a million dollars to distribute nutritious, hot meals to New Yorkers in need.
"We've been here for 38 years," Ottley said. "We'll continue to be there, but it takes help to do that."

And in all those years, Holy Apostles has never missed a meal -- and doesn't intend to do so now.

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