NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — A controversy is cooking in a Suffolk County village as residents fight a church’s plan to feed the needy.
Senior Warden Kevin Cruz of Christ Episcopal Church wants to open a weekly food program to feed 30 to 50 needy people.
“Is the need as great as Manhattan? No, but it is our need, and there are people hungering not just for physical food, but for companionship,” Cruz told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.
The church is tucked into a quiet residential neighborhood. Many support the church’s outreach; it holds Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings and fellowship events.
But some Babylon residents balked at the traffic that a community soup kitchen could bring in.
“We are such a giving community here, good, Christian people, we give an awful lot, and it’s really about the location,” Colleen Castelluccio said.
The issue has been heated. Signs went up, petitions were signed, eggs were tossed.
Other churches in the village already run food programs 3 nights a week.
“They deserve dignity, and what are we going to be, who we are going to be seeing here, really are our broader neighbors in Babylon Village,” Reverend Clare Nesmith said, “There will be families with children.”
The village is a busy place, some fear an influx of outsiders arriving with beer cans and hypodermic needles.
“We are all for soup kitchens, if somehow I could help them cook and bring it somewhere else, to the people who need it, rather than have them all come here I’d be happy to do that,” Valerie Basile said.
Basile is a soccer mom.
“As a mom of three young kids I’m nervous, nervous about an influx of strangers wandering through the neighborhood on a weekly basis,” she said.
Residents who both oppose and support Christ Church’s weekly food program are invited to come before the village zoning board of appeals, Wednesday evening.
The census estimates as many as seven percent in Babylon Village live below the poverty level.