Organizers from a Midwood nonprofit are still working to identify the looters who made off with their community fridge earlier this month.
The fridge, which usually sits in front of the Pakistani American Youth Organization’s Coney Island Avenue office, has provided hundreds of families with food and sustenance amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Waqil Ahmed, one of the organization’s founders, members discovered the theft upon returning from one of the many food banks hosted by the nonprofit. He says surveillance footage shows two crooks waiting outside of PAYO’s office for around 30 minutes the night of Friday, Sept. 17 before making off with the appliance.
The community fridge was born, Ahmed said, out of people’s need for — but inability to attend — their frequent food banks.
“Sometimes people cannot come [to our food banks]. They say ‘Can you guys hold it [or] can you guys deliver it,’ so we decided to have a fridge,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “During COVID that was a good thing because we had people that didn’t want to come stand in line because we have big lines — sometimes around 400 people.”
As of Sept. 30, a GoFundMe to replace the group’s community fridge has raised more than $2,600 toward a $5,000 goal.
But PAYO is just one of many nonprofits and organizations that have taken to online fundraising platforms like GoFundMe for aid since March, 2020. Madison Jones, north east regional spokesperson for GoFundMe, says communities heavily relied on fundraisers during the pandemic.
“Over the past year, organizers across Brooklyn approached the food insecurity conditions exacerbated by the pandemic with a ‘for us, by us’ mentality,” said Jones. “Together, they established community fridges and pantries all across the city to ensure that no neighbor went hungry.”
Clinton Hill’s One Love Community Fridge, a community-based response to the long lines at food banks, was able to raise over $17,000 on the fundraising site.
According to their GoFundMe, with donors’ help, they are “able to install, stock, and maintain fridges and pantries outside public schools in Brooklyn” supplying them with “fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables & pre-packed nutritional foods along with seasonal essential products.”
Similarly, Obocho’s Community Food Pantry, an organization started by 11-year-old Obocho Peters, used GoFundMe to raise funds for their holiday food pantries. For Peters’ first giveaway in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, he and his mother hand-picked food for 99 families at the grocery store. The community’s response made Peters want to expand his impact.
“In order to help my community, I need support from other people. That’s where the GoFundMe comes in,” he said.
In May of 2020, Peters was named The Hero of the Month by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, which led to an influx of donations. With over $3,000 raised, he’s hoping he can continue to host his monthly food pantries — just in time for another round of holidays.
“This campaign serves to raise money for our Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years food pantries as well as to maintain the monthly functions of Obocho’s Community Food Pantry,” his online fundraiser reads. “Together we can give families this gift of love.”