Several Saturdays a month, Dennis McCormack, a longtime sourcing strategist at IBM, heads to St. Columba Roman Catholic Church in Hopewell Junction. For the past three years, the local resident has been an active member of the Men of St. Joseph group at the parish, discussing the Gospel and partaking in service projects alongside his neighbors. “Now that the kids are grown, I luckily have more time for volunteering,” he says.
On one such kind-hearted mission on behalf of the Capuchin Franciscans, McCormack ventured to New York City to help deliver donated furniture to a family that recently fled the violence and religious persecution of their native Egypt. Because of the presence of the St. Mary and St. Antonios Coptic Orthodox Church, the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens has fast become ground zero for Coptic Christian refugees. One of the oldest Christian communities in the world, the Egyptian Copts have been persecuted by the Muslim majority for centuries. The violence, including murders and gutting of churches, has been increasing in recent years.
As a result of this sudden influx, many of the children in these floundering families are forced to share beds and sleep on floors inside narrow railroad-style apartments. When McCormack observed these gloomy conditions, he immediately thought bunk beds could be a viable solution. “More than one twin bed simply didn’t fit in these rooms,” he points out.
Along with Patrick Moore and Eric Winogradoff, fellow members of the men’s group, McCormack helped provide bunk beds — and everything from frames and mattresses to pillows and sheets — were given to needy kids between the ages of three and 18. Last spring, nearly 100 volunteers crafted 33 beds; in the fall, they turned out 44. “The beds are made from two-by-fours that we sand down, stain, and then polyurethane,” says Winogradoff, who works full-time building homes. “Afterwards, it looks like rustic furniture.”
The group has plans to continue making beds for the Ridgewood community at least once a year, but to make an impact on their home turf as well, they’ve collaborated with other charitable organizations to do the same for kids in Hopewell Junction and Poughkeepsie.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Winogradoff. “But there’s a need, so we will just keep going.”
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