Alba Nieves cooking for her church

Community Profile: Alba Nieves

Posted on Posted in Profiles
  Since leaving her native Dominican Republic close to 41 years ago, Alba Nieves has called Los Sures home. Nieves raised her children here and now she is seeing her grandchildren grow up in the same neighborhood. When she retired from the school system where she worked with children with special needs, volunteered in local anti-drug rallies and was president of her children’s PTA, Nieves never thought she would be shouldering the responsibilities of running a much-needed soup kitchen in her community. Nearly four years ago, Epiphany Church decided to prepare a dinner for the area’s disadvantaged during the Christian Holy Week. The next day, people returned in search of a hot meal. Aware of Nieves’ leadership, Rev. Manuel de Jesus Rodriguez tasked her with architecting a soup kitchen program, which would run in the church’s basement. She began by procuring kitchen equipment, a steady food supply and recruiting volunteers. Today, her small operation, staffed by about ten volunteers, feed nearly 6,000 local residents a year. Volunteers hold her in high esteem and are quick to recite stories of her kindness. “Her neighbor didn’t have family or friends and Alba spent the night,” said volunteer Dolly Garriga of Nieves, who cared for her neighbor on hospice. “She was taking care of her own family and running the soup kitchen, and that’s what made me volunteer,” she continued. Nieves has a keen sense of her community and attributes the rise in homelessness to displacement and spiking rents. Statistics shows that today, one in five New Yorkers rely on food pantries or soup kitchens for meals. Still, her focus now is on creating a network of organizations that will service people in need when her soup kitchen is closed. “We need to work together. We are only open Monday and Friday, so we need more churches, of any faith, to organize with us to help our community,” she said. Clearly, the underpinning success of the operation is the duty she feels for her community of Williamsburg. Nieves said, “This is the biggest satisfaction of my life, to do the thing that I am doing now.”

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