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Food chain brings a ray of light to neediest during pandemic

  • 1 min to read

Angelo Boria backed the Bread & Roses van up to the House of Worship Splendor of Zion and formed a bucket brigade with four others unloading 90 boxes of food.

Sustenance that once flowed into the Lawrence Bread & Roses soup kitchen for evening meals and pantry shelves now flows out in bulk deliveries of about 1,000 pounds a day to churches, shelters and such.

The food, donated by local supermarkets and businesses, ultimately ends up in the hands of the growing legions of vulnerable people in this time of coronavirus crisis.

The neediest of the needy include those who have the hardest time with stay-at-home orders: the homeless.

Lawrence, a densely populated city of 80,000, has an estimated 300 to 400 such people living outside and inside shelters, according to recent statistics. Tight quarters raise the specter of the spread of the disease.

Pastor Denis Florentino, 44, welcomed delivery of the Bread & Roses food on Thursday morning at Splendor of Zion, a small bright house of worship in a former mill on Broadway in north Lawrence.

Florentino is a tall, quietly upbeat guy in a ballcap and old-school black-and-white sneakers.

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TIM JEAN/Staff photo. Pastor Denis Florentino, from the House of Worship Splendor of Zion in Lawrence, talks about being part of a chain of people who are getting food to the homeless and others with needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It's his calling, he said, helping people in crisis: "I believe it is my responsibility, my job."

To do otherwise would be an embarrassment. When he was in his 20s he lived on the street before arriving at a crossroads.

Today he's part of a food chain whose members deliver meals and nonperishables to the hungry.

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TIM JEAN/Staff photo. Pastor Denis Florentino, right, from the House of Worship Splendor of Zion in Lawrence, passes boxes of food to Edward Flores, a parishioner and volunteer, as they receive a delivery from Bread & Roses outreach program. The church is part of a chain of people who are getting food to the homeless and others with needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two more links in that delivery chain are Edward Flores, 52, and his wife, Nilda, 48, of Lawrence. They've been making daily rounds to homeless encampments behind buildings, under bridges and along the river.

Thursday the husband and wife started their humanitarian rounds at 1 p.m., bringing hot coffee and sandwiches to folks on Manchester Street, including an older couple in their 70s and addicted to alcohol.

Most of the homeless people they feed have addictions, but not all. Among them there's also a veteran who had back surgery and lost her job.

Homeless men and women now recognize the couple's black Nissan Altima. Edward beeps the horn and they come out to the car.

"It is very, very hard for them to trust you," Edward said.

To donate to the Bread and Roses Covid-19 response visit: www.breadandroseslawrence.org/donate.html.

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