Kids and cops team up to feed Harlem community

Officers and youth volunteers hit a slam dunk over the weekend as they worked together to aid a community in need before facing off in a friendly basketball game.  

Although the Big Apple is emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no escaping the fact that the worst disaster to hit the city since the September 11 terror attacks has left a financial burden on many residents that will continue to impact them for a long time to come.

Breadlines reminiscent of the Great Depression-era spread throughout the city as fast as the virus itself during the height of the pandemic, and yet even now there are those still struggling to put food on their tables as a result.

Members of the Spirit Squad helped load up police vans for delivery. Photo by Dean Moses
They also went along for the ride. Photo by Dean Moses

On July 17, NYPD’s Transit District 1 teamed with Church of the Ascension’s youth group, the Spirit Squad, in front of the house of worship on 221 West 107th St. to distribute bags of food to those in need. Lining up with carriages and carts in tow just after 9:30 a.m. that morning, both the youth and attending officers braved the sweltering heat to ensure the Harlem community was cared for.  

“The police department is always looking for ways to connect to our community, and here we have an opportunity to not only connect with our community but to connect to the youth here,” Captain Kenneth Gorman told amNewYork Metro.

The community care force not only helped pack the bags of fruit, vegetables, and canned goods into carts, they also went the extra mile. Loading bundles of bags into the back of police vans, the children joined the NYPD as they made deliveries to the homebound, such as the elderly and disabled, who are still going without sufficient food access. 

Captain Gorman presented Robin Klueber with a challenge coin. Photo by Dean Moses

“In addition to the families who come here as well, we’ve been able to partner with some of the youth volunteers and deliver to some of the families who are not able to come down to the church,” Captain Gorman explained, pointing to police vehicles that traveled back and forth to deliver the essentials.

The games begin with youth and NYPD officers. Photo by Dean Moses
A Spirit Squad member takes a shot. Photo by Dean Moses

When the program began pre-pandemic, the church fed about 70 individuals, however, since that time the number has skyrocketed to volunteers serving approximately 400 Harlem locals. Although the director of religious education Robin Klueber credits the children for their tireless efforts, she helped guide the Spirit Squad to change the lives of hundreds. For her efforts, Gorman presented Kuleber with a challenge coin to honor her contributions.

After their work distributing the food items, the NYPD officers and the Spirt Squad strengthened their bond by squaring off in a basketball game. The match saw the likes of Captain Gorman dribbling against youth members inside the church’s gymnasium as fellow officers and other children eagerly watched the game and cooled off with ice pops.

An NYPD officer watches the game unfold. Photo by Dean Moses