Each Saturday, as the smell of hot meals sizzles in the morning air, a line bustling with people of all backgrounds wraps around 1014 Gates Avenue. For the past 35 years, between October and June, Faith of Assemblies of God Church becomes a kitchen and pantry, warming the stomachs of 400 families every week. It is a program that began by the founder, Gwendolyn Haynes. Her legacy and the work she began with the pantry was then passed down to her son Overseer Carlos Haynes who assumed the position of director after his mother’s retirement. Today, at the helm are Pastor Ronald John and Minister Colleen John, who for 10 years and throughout the pandemic have lifted up the Bed-Stuy community.
Since their marriage 32 years ago, they have been devoted to service work. Freshly married at 21 and 19, they would visit Interfaith Medical Center on Atlantic Avenue to sing songs, talk, and encourage the patients in the substance abuse detox unit.
The commitment to servitude is generational. Minister Colleen explains, “my mom would give the last dollar that she had. My grandmother would give the last cup of rice that she had… My daughter, she would give you the last shirt on her back.” Elder John’s mother “played a major role in molding me,” and taught him to “not just wait for someone to tell you what to do, but take the initiative.” Both families are from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Elder John was born there and migrated to the United States, while Minister Colleen was born and raised in Brooklyn.
Their entire family is involved in the pantry (“when you see one of us, you see all of us”), and volunteers, who range from 13 to 75, are trained to treat each person they serve with “love and respect.” Apart from the pantry, the church has a gift give-away for the children in the neighborhood each December. Minister Colleen explained, “We just try to be a beacon.”