For the Rev. Chris Ballard, a 2012 graduate of General Seminary, past and present ministries came together this week as he coordinated a major donation of furniture and miscellaneous items from the new owners of the hotel portion of the Desmond Tutu Center to victims of Hurricane Sandy in the Rockaways.
General Seminary closed on the sale of the hotel in September 2012 as part of The Plan to Choose Life (see story), and since then, the new owners of the newly named Highline Hotel, The Brodsky Organization and MCR Development, have been renovating the property. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Steven Hirschberg of The Brodsky Organization realized that much of the hotel’s furniture to be replaced could assist hurricane victims. The seminary was able to connect him with Occupy Sandy, a recovery effort that has a major distribution center at The Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn, where Fr. Ballard serves as Curate.
The generous donation included 30 beds, 33 chairs, and assorted benches, coffee makers, and other items. The Brodsky Organization handled the move to the church in Brooklyn. According to Fr. Ballard, the items will go to immigrant families in the Rockaways who cannot receive federal aid due to their undocumented status. “The families are destitute and have little or nothing as far as housewares,” he said.
Before becoming a full-time student in 2011, Fr. Ballard worked at General Seminary as the Associate Director of the Desmond Tutu Center. Upon graduation, he began his ministry at the St. Luke and St. Matthew and also, by appointment of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, as the pastoral leader of the congregation of The Church of the Redeemer in Brooklyn, whose building is in need of major renovation (see Wall Street Journal article). At St. Luke and St. Matthew, he has worked closely with Occupy Sandy volunteers, who for his ordination to the priesthood on December 8, 2012, gave him a bicycle after his former one had disappeared from the church. They presented the bicycle to him after his first celebration of the Eucharist the next morning.
Thus, for Fr. Ballard, the donation of furniture from the Tutu hotel was a link to his past. “I’ve come full circle,” he said. “I saw that furniture arrive when the hotel opened.” As for the furniture going to undocumented workers, he said with passion and gratitude, “Tutu justice!”