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‘Mako’ their day

In early May, 114 families enjoyed “Shark Week” at The Salvation Army corps in Atlantic City, N.J.

The corps received a “fin–tastic” donation of 114 pounds of Shortfin Mako Shark meat from Local 130 Seafood in Asbury Park. Captain Frank Picciotto, the corps officer in Atlantic City, said Mike D’Angelo, a chef who works for Ocean City Resort Casino is on his advisory board and made the donation happen.

“He helps us out a lot when it comes to food,” Picciotto said. “He has connections. We’ve received fish a couple of times.”

Picciotto said D’Angelo and another chef came to the corps and sliced up the shark into one–pound pieces and placed them in plastic bags. The meat was given out in the regular food pantry distribution.

“We’re blessed with whatever we get,” Picciotto said. “It helps alleviate the financial burden people are going through right now.”

Atlantic City has been hit hard financially by COVID–19, especially with the closing of the city’s casinos. In May, Picciotto appeared on the front page of the local newspaper in front of empty shelves in the corps food pantry.

“We’ve been running out of food a lot,” he said. “I just wanted to let the public know we needed some help in filling the food pantry shelves so we could give out food to the families coming for assistance.”

Picciotto said the corps, which runs a pantry and soup kitchen, gave out 170,018 meals from March 17 to May 12—a nearly 300 percent increase from 2019.

“I was surprised, but we’ve been giving out a lot of food,” he said. “When the casinos closed down, some of them called us to pick up food or they delivered produce. They gave us a lot of milk and eggs.”

The Tropicana Atlantic City casino gave the corps sliced cold cuts and the trimmings to make sandwiches. One woman dropped off $225 worth of food after a trip to the grocery.

Picciotto said the corps received $62,000 in in–kind food donations in March and $52,000 in April.

“A lot of people are coming to deliver food to us,” he said. “People are really stepping up and helping us. They say during the tough times, the community really works well together, and we’ve seen God working through everybody.”

Still, the need is great and Picciotto said one family that showed up for food in May had 16 people.

“There’s also a lot of people struggling with homelessness where we are,” he said. “We’re in a good location when it comes to helping those who are struggling. We have a lot of immigrants who live around us. It’s like a little melting pot, like a little New York City. We are sharing the gospel and the love of God with everybody who comes to the door.

“It’s a tragedy that people are hurting because a lot of them are out of work, but we’re there to help fill the refrigerator and freezer as much as we can. It’s a big struggle.”

The immediate future of the casinos, the lifeblood of Atlantic City’s economy, remains uncertain. Picciotto and those at the corps are praying for a quick resolution.

“For me, it’s about people getting back on their feet and having Jesus first in their life,” he said. “Their family, work, and shelter bring stability—mind, body, and soul. Our prayer is that the virus would go away and there would be healing, and people would get back to their normal ways of life.”

by Robert Mitchell

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