Guyana’s First Lady volunteers at Queens food pantry

From left, Sherif Barker-Fraser, president, GUM, Guyana Consul General to New York, Barbara Atherly, First Lady Sandra Granger, Joycelyn Thomas-Wilson, Nadia Singh, and Tony Singh, Back row, Errol Lewis, Roger Gary, and Kevin Sookdeo, after volunteering at Calvary’s Mission Food Pantry in Richmond Hill, Queens.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Guyana’s First Lady, Sandra Granger, was hands-on at Calvary’s Mission Food Pantry in Richmond Hill, Queens, on Saturday, Aug. 31, where she handed out nutritious food items, such as fruits veggies, and meats, to scores of residents, go the pantry operated Guyanese-American Tony Singh.

Mrs. Granger who toured the two-level facility, expressed gratitude, noting that she enjoyed the experience, of visiting, and volunteering at the pantry in Richmond Hill, and thanked Singh and his team, for doing very good work, at the pantry to fee New Yorkers.

The First Lady, who is in New York, to take part in the Labor Day Carnival as a Grand Marshall, toured of the facility with Kevin Sookdeo, director of operations, who said, that the charity started in 1998 by a few members of the church, who donated food supplies to fill a need they saws the community.

He noted that two out of five New Yorkers go to soup kitchens, or pantries, to feed themselves and family members.

“What started as a small endeavor, turned out to be much more than we expected, and little by little our organization grew”, he said, adding that the 501 (c) 3, non-profit was created, in 2008, during the height of the recession, and that same year the organization served 1000, pounds of food every week, to residents who showed up.

The charity partners with large government agencies, like the New York food bank. The pantry also receives small donations from the emergency assistance program.

Last year alone, the pantry served 3.5 million pounds of food, he said, noting that the church has been a major partner in addressing food security in America and around the world

He told Mrs. Granger who was draped with a garland by Nadia Singh, that the service is free and open to the public. Families just need to join the line by 9am, sign their name, and served nutritious food items.

Sookdeo said, according to, an estimated 120,000 New Yorkers receive food, weekly from pantries in the boroughs, and Calvary’s Mission Food pantry has been at the forefront of meeting the need of many in the Richman Hill area.

“We also support orphans in Guyana, said Singh who travels to Guyana annually to feed children in Georgetown, and parts of the rural Berbice area, where school supplies and medicines, are also distributed, said Singh also who welcomed Consul General, Barbara Atherley, who shared out food items to locals.

The pantry has reached citizens as far away as the Philippines, and Haiti, where persons have participated in helping to rebuilding the hurricane ravished country.

Sookdeo, who travels to his homeland to feed families in the shanty towns of Trinidad, told Mrs. Granger that the pantry stores more that 25000 pounds of food to make sure the needs of residents, are met every Saturday.

“If for some reason we don’t get a delivery one weekend of needed items from the food bank, we have enough on hand to share,” said Sookdeo, adding that the pantry, procure healthy brands to ensure healthy eating.

Singh said the cost of living went up in New York and some families cannot afford to feed their families, and he feels honored, and blessed that he could help in this regard.

“We are here summer, winter, fall, and we try to stay open as much as possible, since the community depends on us,” said Singh, noting that due to the Labor Day weekend, other pantries were close, but he felt it was important to continue the service as usual, since residents look forward to being served.

Mr. Singh thanked First Lady Sandra Granger, for her outstanding work both in Guyana, and abroad. He also thanked, Consul General Barbara Atherly, Sherif Barker-Fraser, Joycelyn Thomas-Wilson, and Errol Barrow, for volunteering at the pantry.

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