‘Neighbors Being Human’

Church documentary features Passport Rotary


A few years back, just prior to COVID, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, located in Yaphank, started a community outreach program called Neighbors Being Human, by opening a food pantry. Soon after, the group began including the nomadic families living year-round at the Suffolk County campgrounds by creating blessing boxes and filling them with food. Families were able to take what they needed, and the church replenished it daily.

“In the off-season, only two campgrounds are open to families, who are forced to move weekly. One of the campgrounds only has six electrical sites, and campers are not allowed to use generators at night for heat,” explained Rotary Club charter founder, Janice Graf.

The need continued to grow, and in search of assistance, a partnership formed with the local Passport Rotary, which stepped in and helped distribute to the campgrounds. Twice a month, Passport Rotary visits the campsites, bringing much-needed supplies. They serve over 500 people a month.
On Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Rotary also helps prepare feasts to share, as well as food and warm clothing for the harsh winter days and nights. And, this year, with the generosity of Lewin Farm, the group was able to acquire fresh vegetables to distribute to the campers.

Earlier this year, the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island funded and created the in-house made documentary about the program and nomadic families who benefit. The seven-minute documentary was filmed during the summer of 2022 and includes both the church’s food pantry and the campsite distributions with Passport Rotary.

“They wanted to capture the plight of what they’re going through,” Graf said.

According to Richard Ohlsen, church chair of the program and Episcopal Diocese of Long Island postulant, the film was made by diocese videographers and can be viewed on the ministry’s website at https://episcopalministries.org/who-we-are/neighbors-being-human.

He estimated that their pantries feed roughly 150 people per week, and predicts this number will increase as the holidays approach.  

“We want them to know they are not forgotten, and we are taking care of them,” he said of why they continue to program, also explaining that many of the people are underemployed, just living in the margins. “God provides.”

The team at NBH comprises both parishioners at St. Andrew’s and concerned community members, including Richard Ohlsen, Sherrilee Partiss, Leo Serrate, Craig Chin-Suey, Robert Williams, Uwe Ross, Laura Geenen, Kerri Dillon, Shawnna Tereshko, Kristen Iraina, Tony Mannino, and members of the Passport Rotary Club and IGHL Group Home Manorville.


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