The St. Albans-Hollis area, like just about everywhere else in Queens, has been slammed economically by the COVID-19-related shutdown of most of the business community.
“A lot of businesses have just closed. A lot of people are out of work,” said James Johnson, standing outside a parking lot at 201-17 Hollis Ave.
“My barber down the street also has a hair salon,” he said, pointing to the east. “She hasn’t been open in three months.”
So last week, a number of community organizations and volunteers got together to serve 200 hot meals in the parking lot, along with handing out information on the 2020 Census and 200 face masks donated by the NYPD’s 103rd Precinct.
Also helping out was Kyle O’Quinn, a Jamaica native, Holy Cross High school alum, former New York Knick and current Philadelphia 76er.
Johnson, a Queens resident who works for millennial involvement in civic groups and government, said his fraternity, the Nu Omicron Chapter of Omega Psi Phi, raised money for the luncheon. Project HYPE — short for Help Young People Evolve, also was on hand in numbers.
The chef for the day, Najee Saunders, is the proprietor of The Chop Shop Truck. And he is no stranger to helping out those in need.
“Today we’re serving jerked chicken, cocoanut rice and black beans,” he said. “As soon as I heard from J.J. [Johnson] I agreed to come.”
The Rev. Francko Harris, pastor of Mount Olivet Baptist Church less than half a block away, wanted to participate for many reasons.
“Our church was founded here on this lot,” he said. “And people here have been hit hard both by COVID-19 and by the loss of jobs.”
Harris also acknowledged that he, like most of the clergy, are necessarily busier tending their flocks during times of crisis.
“I have a lot of energy,” he said.