By Jenna DeAngelis

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey’s largest city has been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

Many people in Newark are struggling to get food, especially on a holiday.

But a local church, with the help of the community, is making sure that doesn’t happen this holiday.

(credit: CBS2)

As CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reports, many people lined up outside St. John’s Church on Christmas Eve to get a gift others might take for granted: A hot meal.

Among them is 27-year-old Isaiah Carter, who says he visits the soup kitchen every day.

“This means a lot to me. To be able to have a good meal and a place where I could feel accepted, and not have to commit crimes and dig in the trash cans to have something to eat,” he said.

ARE YOU RUNNING OUT OF FOOD?

He’s grateful to the church, and the community member who make this happen. Like Jersey Cares volunteer David Jurman, who has been volunteering there since 1993.

But this year is unlike any other.

“There’s so may people in need, so many people out of work right now, so many people now are homeless that the urgency of what we do is more important now than ever,” he said.

The pandemic changed the Christmas Eve tradition at the church. Normally, organization Holiday Express would put on a big party for those in need, setting up tents for people to eat in, and music to enjoy.

Instead, it donated about 400 meals, and more. They prepared duffle bags, filled with essentials for people in need.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“We have 500+ bags here. They’re all age appropriate,” said Peter Dobbs, director of St. John’s soup kitchen. “This is for a child. So the bag consists of clothing, gloves, blankets.”

Dobbs says he’s appreciative of all the volunteers who showed up on a holiday in a pandemic.

“They’re taking on a risk of their own, but they all feel the same way, to help the community by giving all the nice products to these people. They’ll be very cherished,” Dobbs said.

“These people give me the ability to enjoy my holiday despite the pandemic and my challenging situation,” Carter said.

That’s the true meaning of Christmas.

St. John’s soup kitchen is just one of the about 100 organizations Holiday Express donated items to in the Tri-State Area this holiday season.

More From CBS New York:

Jenna DeAngelis