“I have always loved helping others in any way that I can,” says Hylkije Halili, Program Coordinator for LSSNY’s New LIFE Center of Long Island.

Since volunteering with our refugee program in 1999, she has worked with both our foster care and hunger prevention programs. Hylkije has been with our New LIFE Center of Long Island for 16 years.

The Center serves low-income residents, mostly mothers with children. Partnering with a network of over 40 churches, the Center feeds food-insecure individuals and families living near or below the deferral poverty level. The organization also partners with United Way, Island Harvest, and Long Island Cares – The Harry Chapin Food Bank.

In light of COVID-19 and quarantine conditions, the Center knew it had to keep its doors open. Ms. Halili, her two staffers, and a greatly reduced number of volunteers worked quickly to create new health and safety measures for their own protection and for that of their clients. Before COVID, clients were able to enter the premises and choose their own food. But during COVID, Ms. Halili and her colleagues have been preparing prepackaged bags and boxes — filled with protein, canned food, fresh produce, and available toiletries — to distribute outside the Center. They tailor the packages to their clients’ dietary restrictions and family size. To date, the Center has supplied much-needed food to 1,154 food-insecure adults, children, and seniors during the pandemic.

We asked Ms. Halili if she had any concerns working on the front lines during the pandemic. She replied without hesitation, “Of course I am a little concerned, but helping the community feels totally different. We keep six feet of distance and don’t let our clients come inside to shop like they did before. We have enough PPE. Everybody knows and understands what it means to protect yourself and protect other people. We haven’t had a problem with anybody.”

Reflecting on what it has meant to her to work with Lutheran Social Services of New York for twenty years, she says, “I really enjoy working with this organization and offering different resources to people in need. It’s always about helping the community. And they really need the help.”