Tucked down a side street in the industrial section of Hempstead Village, the exterior of the Mary Brennan Interfaith Nutrition Network looks humble.
But what is happening inside keeps expanding like a quiet galaxy.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the soup kitchen was serving about 335 meals per day to hungry Long Islanders who came into the dining room.
In mid-March of 2020, government shutdowns upended Mary Brennan’s operations. Until December 2022, meals had to be packaged to-go and handed out through windows by volunteers who required personal protective equipment. Requests for warm clothing were handled similarly.
Meanwhile, hunger on Long Island increased, as pandemic job losses deprived many of income. The needs imposed on The INN were overwhelming.
But government funding, strong management, and a remarkable network of volunteers and donors have strengthened the facility beyond all predictions. Nowadays, over 1,425 meals are handed out daily from a newly sanitized kitchen with shiny stainless-steel walls.
To-go meals in disposable packaging are still given to those who prefer them. But hungry people who do enter the dining room now pass through a temperature-controlling vestibule, cross a resurfaced non-slip floor, sit at bright new countertops, and eat hot food from sturdy washable plates.
Service hours have expanded, too. Sit-down meals are available between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. and to-go meals between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
In addition to the food service, as of March 1, the INN clothing boutique reopened, this time in 108 Madison Ave., the building adjacent to the original INN.
The recently acquired 25,000-square-foot structure was purchased through a December 2022 government funding bill that gave The INN $2 million for homeless safety net programming. It now contains the Center for Transformative Change.
“We are most grateful to our dedicated staff and volunteers,” said Executive Director Jean Kelly, “all of whom came together through the last three years to ensure we never closed our doors completely during the pandemic, and were able to reopen with a brand-new beautifully renovated soup kitchen and a new building that houses our warehouse and boutique. We are in the process of continuing to expand our services to meet the needs of all our community members and neighbors who seek our help, as we have for the last 40 years since The INN opened the first soup kitchen on Long Island in 1983.”
“With the new Madison Avenue campus, The INN can hold true to its mission to serve with dignity, respect and love,” added Dana Lopez, Director of Marketing and Communications. “We couldn’t do any of it without the generosity of our donors and supporters.”