PLEASANTVILLE - During these troubled times, city resident Richard Hamidullah strives to make a difference – one box or can of food at a time.
Hamidullah, 51, operates the Neighborly Needs food pantry from inside a crowded storage room in the Ralph Peterson Sr. Community Center in Pleasantville’s New Hope Community Village, 301 Woodland Ave.
The pantry operates 2-4 p.m. Tuesdays and serves about 75 to 80 people each week.
“We see a lot of working people who are now the working poor,” Hamidullah said. “They either can’t find full-time work or they can’t find work that paid what they used to earn.”
Hamidullah gets his food from the Food Bank of New Jersey - Southern Branch. People who seek food need to show identification verify a need, he said.
He is helped by his daughter, Aidah, and mother, Joan Hopkins, as well as his sons, Jabril and Idris. Friends Deloris White and Rashan El-Amin volunteer to help as well.
On Tuesday, July 24, Haidullah shook the hand of a man who was happy to receive some food from a pantry he just learned about.
“I didn’t know you were here,” he told Hamidullah before he left, wearing a smile on his face.
Hamidullah smiled in return, knowing the man would be back like many others he has seen return since he started the pantry in 2010.
“There are some moments that make this really special,” he said.
According to Hamidullah, the people that come to his food pantry are as likely to wear a suit as they are blue jeans and as likely to have gray hair as a youthful appearance.
“We get people from all walks of life,” Hamidullah said. “We also get a lot of senior citizens,” Hamidullah said.
His quest to help began after he moved to Pleasantville. Hamidullah wanted to make a difference and to help out in a community that had many needs.
“I work nights, so I have a job that will allow me to do things during the afternoon,” he said about his employment at the Tropicana.
Hamidullah sees on a weekly basis what state leaders confirmed in their most recent jobless rates report posted on Friday, July 20.
According to state figures, New Jersey’s unemployment rate climbed to a two-year high in June. The state’s jobless rate rose from 9.2 percent in May to 9.6 percent in June and accounted for the largest month-to-month increase since 2009.
Considering that the national jobless rate for June was 8.2 percent, New Jersey workers are still stuck in the fallout created by the 2008 worldwide recession.
Not since the early 1980s, has the New Jersey jobless rate been this much above the national rate, leaders said.
Worse yet, year-to-year numbers indicate the casino industry remains mired in a decline that started around 2005.
Hamidullah, humbly does what he can.
He formed Neighborhood Needs, a nonprofit organization, in 2007. The group had provided summer camp sessions to the city’s youth during the past few years.
Hamidullah has plans.
“It would be nice to have a full-blown center,” he said.
For now, Hamidullah said he is thankful for Ingersoll Management, which runs the community center, and the Pleasantville Housing Authority, for allowing him to use their space for the food pantry.
That way he can continue making a difference one can of food at a time.
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