It was nearly 20 years ago Frances Segan gave her word to Mathilda Furman she would keep the Kingsbridge Riverdale Marble Hill Food & Hunger Project up and running.
At the time, Segan was an active member of the project, and having had a career in education where she was committed to helping people and children in need, keeping her word to Furman was important.
These days, she’s the president of the organization, which provides groceries for those experiencing financial hardships through a weekly food pantry at the Episcopal Church of the Mediator. It also has a monthly grocery-bagging project at The Riverdale Y to help deliver food to senior citizens who are unable to leave their homes, not to mention an effort to distribute holiday gift packages to children every year.
Furman — who died in 2000 — started the hunger project in February 1980 through the Interfaith Clergy Council of Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Spuyten Duyvil as well as the leader for the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture at the time.
“Her belief was people have the misimpression — even at the time — that Riverdale is just a rich community and there was (no) hunger in the Riverdale, Kingsbridge, (and) Marble Hill area,” Segan said.
Today, it classifies itself as a grassroots nonprofit that relies on food and cash donations from the community. It also has the participating support of 10 organizations such as The Riverdale Temple and Christ Church of Riverdale.
Every Tuesday — with the exception of a few weeks in August and the Tuesday between Christmas and New Year’s — Segan’s volunteer team makes its way to the Church of the Mediator to help an average of 30 grocery recipients. All they have to do to qualify is show proof of their address through a state ID, food stamp card, or a recent bill. The pantry is open to Kingsbridge, Riverdale and Marble Hill residents.
The efficacy of the food pantry is not just the quantity of canned goods it offers residents, but according to Segan, it’s also the quality of the people who take the time to help and develop relationships with them.
“If the intrinsic reward of working with the people wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have these volunteers staying year after year,” she said.
Segan also added that the combined efforts of the organization’s volunteers throughout the year just “shows the goodwill of people coming together to help out.”
With the hunger project such a grassroots effort, Segan said it’s difficult to put together major fundraisers like the concert they did a few years back. But she’s always open to suggestions from her team.
Looking ahead to the future, Segan wants the organization to continue helping the community, but also to find people to “build a plan” to keep it going.
But for now, holiday season or not, Segan’s continuously grateful for the people on her advisory board and the volunteers on the ground who have made a difference in the community.
“I have great respect for the people who made that commitment to help on a weekly basis, or a regular basis — even if they can’t do it every week — to make this work,” Segan said. “Because if I didn’t have the advisory board, if I didn’t have the volunteers, it’s not going to function.
“One person is not going to make it work.”