By GWEN OREL
For Raffaele Marzullo, bringing food to the needy has always been a part of his faith.
The Community Outreach Program (COP) of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, which began in 2016, brought food to Toni’s Kitchen and the Salvation Army.
The committee is made up of parishioners and friends of the 114-year-old church on Pine Street, which is now part of St. Teresa of Calcutta parish.
The group would routinely do a toy drive with the Montclair Police Department and the Salvation Army, and bring Thanksgiving food to Toni’s Kitchen.
Since the COVID-19 lockdown, the committee has brought food every day to first responders and Mountainside hospital.
Marzullo’s sister, Marialena Marzullo, picks up food from bakeries and other outlets every day to deliver. Normally, COP would not deliver on Sunday, but when the pandemic began they started bringing food to Mountainside hospital on Sundays, too.
“As hard as the first responders are working, this is our way of saying ‘Thank you,’” Marzullo said. “Every morning we bring about 50 breakfast items to the Salvation Army.”
On Thursday, April 30, COP brought more than 200 tote bags filled with snacks, drinks, travel mugs, and supplies to Mountainside, organizing with accounting firm KPMG, Mayor Robert Jackson, the Montclair Police Department, Gelati Montclair, and other members of the Montclair Township Council. Angela Gallo, a COP member, was instrumental in getting all of the toiletries and some snacks together, Marzullo said.
Most of the food they give is donated; COP did buy some items to put in the tote bags. They have in the past made some money from bake sales and tricky trays, Marzullo said.
COP’s advisory board includes N.J. Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin; Mayor Jackson; First Ward Councilman Bill Hurlock; former MPD Chief Thomas Russo; Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Montclair Council 1277 Vincent Lombardi; St. Sebastian Society President Joseph DiBella; Stephen Ruccio, president of UNICO Montclair; Daniel Arminio, president of the St. Donato Society, and Marzullo, who is president of the St. Vito Society.
“We do it because it’s something that needs to be done,” Marzullo said. “We take nothing for what we do. We pay for our own gas and other things. It’s all done from our hearts. We will keep doing it as long as people are hungry.”
It’s his hope that the Archdiocese of Newark will recognize the important role COP plays in the community and surrounding areas. OLMC merged with Immaculate Conception Church to become St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish in 2016.
The Community Outreach Program for OLMC also donated $1,000 to the Northeast Earth Coalition, for the Community Garden at OLMC. Food from the garden will help feed underprivileged families, and any extra will be donated to Toni’s Kitchen and other food banks, Marzullo said.
“Back in the ’70s, Monsignor Emmanuel Capozelli would keep bags of groceries in the rectory, and they would be available for whoever needed them,” Marzullo said. Capozzelli was at OLMC from 1968 to 1994.
Marzullo, whose family owned the now-closed Marzullo’s Restaurant and Caterers on Grove Street, said back when Marzullo’s was an Italian deli, he used to get phone calls asking if he could donate $25 worth of groceries. “It was the Christian thing to do,” he said. “Someone said, ‘Who gives you the right to do it?’ Do you need a right to be a good Christian and do something?”
A few years ago, Marzullo was serving food at Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless with the Community Outreach Program.
“I must have recognized four or five different people that used to come in to Marzullo’s,” he said. “That’s the drive that keeps you doing stuff.”
To see recent distributions and donations and view events, visit Facebook.com/COPOLMC.