Feeding Those In Need

Jun 9, 2020

For three New York Cosmos players, it was a no-brainer to lend a hand.

When team captain Danny Szetela, goalkeeper Jesse Corke and midfielder-forward Shavon John-Brown were asked to help out the East Village Loves Queens organization, they understood their responsibilities as professional athletes in trying to make a difference.

Along with the family of Cosmos Chief Operating Officer Erik Stover, the trio showed up on the Lower East Side to aid in preparing food and meals for the needy this past Sunday.

East Village Loves Queens produces thousands of meals a week for families in Queens who have been impacted economically, most recently by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Especially being from New York and how affected we were, with everything that's going on right now, you've got to take care of your community and give back," Corke said. "This is home. You take care of your home and that's what we had to do. It was fulfilling for us but there are so many people right now that are hurting that needed our help."

Szetela agreed.

"It's very important," the veteran midfielder said. "As athletes, we have some free time so whenever we can go out there and give back to the community. Anything we can do off the field to support them and in any way that they need, it's always great for the players to do so."

While he was not on the field giving the opposition fits with his speed and talent, John-Brown said he got a lot of satisfaction helping out.

"You're helping hundreds of people," he said. "It's just amazing to be a part of helping people. There's always somebody else who needs the extra push. I enjoyed it."

The players helped produced over 300 ham and cheese sandwiches while other volunteers made over 1000 chicken and rice meals.

"We're athletes," Szetela said. "They left us with the easy part, making sandwiches."

Which was fine for Szetela and his teammates.

"Just making the sandwiches was a lot of fun and knowing that you’re doing that for a good deed, for people who actually need help," John-Brown said. "Maybe you want to put more effort into it."

They were delivered to Hungry Monk, a Ridgewood-based homeless outreach and community response organization, which serves the surrounding areas. Tuesday was the 90th consecutive day Hungry Monk has fed the needy during the pandemic.

Sahsa Allenby, a co-founder with Mammad Mahmoodi of East Village Loves Queens, was impressed with the Cosmos' attitude.

"They were awesome," Allenby said. "Some people just turn up for a photo shoot and they kind of half turn up. The Cosmos turned up. They pulled their sleeves up. They did some great work. ... It was really great to see them do some awesome work that had some immediate impact and to have them show up so humble and with such open hearts."

The Cosmos were alerted to the East Village Loves Queens' efforts by their 5 Points supporters group, which has had volunteered to help the organization before. Cosmos fan Nicholas Alexandrakos, who has volunteered at other causes throughout the city, spearheaded the effort.

"He has been bringing a team from the Cosmos [supporters] every week, more or less, since we started there because he has this attitude that football should be about community and not about the game itself," Allenby said. "He's brought donations from some of the Cosmos supporters."

East Village Loves Queens works out of the Sixth Street Community Center in Manhattan. The group, which gets together once on the weekend and sometimes twice a week, will produce from 1,000 to 2,000 meals.

During these difficult financial times for many families and people, donations can be scarce.

"It is challenging," Allenby said. "What we're seeing is the people who have less give more. For example, in the east village we have people coming around, 'Look, I’ve lost my job, but I still have a credit card. If I'm feeding myself, I can give some food that can feed other people, too.’

"We're seeing beautiful acts like that. I think people in these times really do feel they can walk in the shoes of the people who have nothing, or they have shown what it’s like on that level. There is a lot of generosity, a lot of smaller donations. We have managed to keep it going. I don't know how stable [it will be] in the longer term."

Fans wanting to make a donation to East Village Loves Queens, can visit: https://evlovesqueens.com/support/

One thing was certain. What Szetela, John-Brown and Corke did was far from a one-shot deal. They plan to return to lend their hands again.

"What we did was great and we’re looking forward to hopefully working some more and helping out the people in the community anyway we can," Szetela said.

Corke, who is in his second year with the club, said it was his first community project in which he participated.

"I think it's a start of a relationship that we'll keep with them and hopefully we'll continue to help them to give back to the community," he said.

"I look forward to doing many more."

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