Planting Seeds of Hope

Seeds of Service in action. Photo by Lauren Payne

Suzanne Craig has always been philanthropic, so when Covid-19 hit, she instantly looked for a way to help others. “I asked my neighbor if she knew of a food bank,” says Craig, a Bay Head resident. “Once I got one, I contacted a graphic designer I know to have a flyer made,” she adds. “Then I shared it all.”

The result was a grassroots push to support Seeds of Service (SOS), an organization that regularly provides food, clothing and other outreach services to Ocean County residents. Craig posted the flyer on social media—“it was shared 29 times, and 28 of those were strangers,” she says—and also passed it along to her aunt, who shared it with her church’s rosary society. The result: an outpouring of donations.

“We were in desperate mode,” says SOS’s director Christie Winters. “Within two hours, they got us through. The immediate donations sustained us.”

Winters explains that SOS runs 28 various outreach programs but its most critical is food-related. “We function as a grocery store, providing food to 500 area families in need every month,” says Winters. With Covid-19, the need grew. “Our number is up to 720 families each month,” she says.

Since social-distancing restrictions have prevented residents from going to the facility to select their food, a small army of volunteers took over, hand-delivering provisions to the families. “We are delivering six to seven bags, about two weeks’ worth, to our families,” Winters says.

The daily pace at SOS is astounding. “Other area pantries had to shut down,” Winters says, “but not us.” SOS was able to get a state grant, but it’s the donations of local residents that keep its pantry stocked and running. “It’s so beautiful how it all went down,” says Winters. “We’re too blessed to be stressed.” —Lauren Payne