Alumni group distributes food packets

Staff of Tillies restaurant, which donated hot lunches over several months of the lockdown, and of the Adventist Community Services Department. From left, Angela Hall and Vincent Hall, both of the ACS, flank Nashawn Martin, Davide Spada and Gerardo Gonzales of Tillies. - Photo: Submitted

A university alumni group is distributing food packets this week and next after raising money at a benefit concert for families impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Manna House Pantry, operated by Shirlene Henriques, a member of the team of the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) Alumni Association Cayman Chapter, which organised the concert, is handing out the packets to some 60 families.

Items collected at the free event on 26 Sept. were supplemented by donations totalling more than $500, including a gift certificate from Cost-U-Less, a press release from the NCU stated.

Henriques, who is wheelchair-bound, has equipped the food pantry at her home with commercial-grade refrigerators, freezers and stoves. She has been working with the Cayman Food Bank.

With the support of the Food Bank and other contributors, including Hurley’s supermarket, which donates surplus pastry weekly, and the Lions Club of Grand Cayman, the Manna House Pantry has been supplying some 40-plus families, from Frank Sound to West Bay. This service has been operating weekly since 2018.

This weekly distribution was complemented during the Cayman pandemic lockdown, from March through to the end of May, by a distribution of 107 hot meals, four days a week, donated by Tillies restaurant. The Adventist Community Services Department, of which Angela Hall is director, distributed the food.

In administering the Manna House Pantry, Henriques collaborates closely with Hall and the Adventist Church’s headquarters in Cayman. As part of its pandemic response, the Cayman Islands Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has stepped up support of its regular community service regimes through its churches across Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.

“The Adventist Church is very conscious that the pandemic has brought extra stress to the lives of so many people,” president of the conference, Pastor Reinaldo Dracket, said in the release.

For Henriques, the idea of the bustling Manna House Pantry initiative evolved from a 12-member Bodden Town Adventist Church Sabbath School class (the equivalent of Sunday School) looking for a community service project of its own.

Angela Hall, left, and Shirlene Henriques of the Manna House Pantry, sort food items. – Photo: Submitted

The group settled on establishing a soup kitchen, and soon began delivering 20 cups of soup twice monthly. That initial effort has grown into a well-established operation in which 118 cups of soup are delivered twice monthly to families in the area, the press release stated.

Over time, the soup kitchen, Henriques said, “took on a life of its own,” and, today, the little Bodden Town church itself has assumed funding of the soup kitchen’s operations, administered entirely by volunteers.

Members of the public who may have needs that are not currently being addressed by the Manna House Pantry or other similar initiatives, or are interested in donating, can contact Henriques at 325-9917.

Two students are currently attending the Jamaica-based Northern Caribbean University on chapter scholarships, one funded by a community member who wishes to remain anonymous.

Any qualifying person, regardless of religious affiliations, may apply for available scholarships through the Cayman Chapter to attend NCU.

In a separate sponsorship initiative, the chapter recently collected more than US$10,000 in donations to meet students’ emergency needs precipitated by the pandemic. These scholarships are administered by a federation of worldwide NCU alumni chapters.

For a link to federation scholarship applications, visit https://forms.gle/Tcc7XD3ohaJhUyni6, and for details on the ongoing federation fundraising initiative, visit https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/NCUCARE/team/TeamCayman.

To donate food or funds to the Cayman Food Bank email [email protected] or [email protected].

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now