There's a line around the block outside of the Huntington Free Library and Reading Room in The Bronx. It's a building that has been serving the public for more than 125 years, by providing a place to read and learn and gather. The tradition of service continues, albeit in a different form, as volunteers get food to Bronx residents who are struggling to feed their families.

What You Need To Know

  • The Huntington Free Library and Reading Room opened in the Westchester Square section of the Bronx in 1892

  • The library was completed with the help of railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington, who had a summer home in nearby Throggs Neck

  • At the time of its opening, the Bronx was part of Westchester County, and the library was one of the focal points of a town also called Westchester

  • The library has teamed up with other community groups to run a food pantry while its historic building remains closed due to the pandemic

"You know people are scared, a lot of people still aren't working, it keeps them up at night,” said Nilka Martell, a library board member and the founder and director of the organization Loving the Bronx.

In a borough with already high poverty rates compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, groups have banded together to help. 

The library, a community staple since before the Bronx was even part of New York City, decided to help feed neighbors, despite its doors being closed to its usual visitors and programming being severely altered due to COVID-19.

"Even if we are closed as a library, we are still here to help,” said Library President Angel Hernandez, who added that they are proud that they can do this during the pandemic.

The non-lending library was made possible by railroad magnate Collis P. Huntington, who had a summer home in nearby Throggs Neck. 

The library is not affiliated with any of the city's public libraries. It is working with other community groups like Loving The Bronx and Rap4Bronx, and has provided around 30,000 meals for families in the Bronx since the effort started in late April.

The plan is to continue into October or November.

Rap4Bronx Coordinator Shana McCormick said her group, made up of representatives from the construction world, will be there to partner with them.

"We just pooled all of our resources, put our thinking hats on and got busy and stepped in because, as we know, the Bronx was heavily affected by COVID-19, and so we just got to work,” said McCormick.

The Huntington Free Library is looking for more volunteers as they continue the effort.

To lend a hand, check out their page on Facebook.