After P.J. Balzar lost his brother in 2009 to a drug overdose, he decided to dedicate his life to helping those around him.

“It’s about reaching out to people where they are,” said Balzar, 39, of Mastic Beach.

Balzar and his wife, Catherine Gutierrez, 35, took on different charitable acts. His organization, The Kings Kids Christian Outreach, has delivered and supplied necessities to people using his van. From starting a youth group to creating “snack bags” that include juice boxes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and granola, he also created “grocery boxes” for low-income single moms in the area.

They reach people in Center Moriches, Mastic, Mastic Beach, Moriches Shirley, and, most recently, North Bellport.

Balzar’s volunteer efforts went into overdrive since the coronavirus outbreak. He’s now driving and leaving groceries on the front steps of people’s homes, with no person-to-person contact. 

Over the years, Nettie’s Country Bakery in Center Moriches has been a major partner in helping with P.J. Balzar’s mission to help feed people in the community. Credit: P.J. Balzar

“If there was a need for food before, there is definitely a need for it now,” Balzar said.

His efforts have won the support of businesses including Nettie’s Country Bakery in Center Moriches. Three years ago, Joe and Jeanette McHeffy, Nettie’s owners, heard about the grocery boxes Balzar was delivering and asked him to pick up whatever wasn’t sold each week on Sunday. This relationship has gone on for three years. 

“They are a kind family, always going the extra mile,” Balzar said.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Nettie’s and Balzar have had to adjust their relationship. Patrick McHeffey, Joe and Jeannette son, who also works at Nettie’s, reached out to Balzar and said that because Nettie’s decided to temporarily close its doors to the public — shifting to home delivery and pickup — their Sunday setup would have to be suspended. However, McHeffey didn’t want the generosity to end.

And it didn’t.

While Nettie’s continues to offer online orders, it also set up a link where people could donate $5 and send a loaf of bread and gallon of milk “to a local family or individual in need.” Donors can sign up for a one-time purchase or a weekly subscription.

“Milk and bread have been staples in our diets and something that the poor community has had trouble finding,” Balzar said.

Other businesses in the area have also reached out to Balzar. Moriches Bay Diner donated 150 eggs and Balzar has set up a gofundme campaign to help offset the costs of groceries for those in the area, as Balzar and his wife do daily drop-offs of food, diapers, wipes and snacks for kids. The gofundme campaign has raised $9,655 toward its $100,000 goal.

“We try to help people who are helpless, being on the front lines of this you see a lot, but you also want to help.”