Audrey Lewis has devoted her life to serving others. A retired Gulf War veteran, Audrey was a supply sergeant in the 140th field service in the U.S. Army. When she returned to civilian life on Long Island, she became active in the non-profit community, as a volunteer and as recruitment director at Life’s Worc in Garden City. When she was laid off during the 2008 recession, Audrey took the opportunity to assemble a business plan for a much-needed community center in her own neighborhood.

A year later, her plan came to fruition when she founded the E Joy Community Resource Center, Inc., based at the Friendship Baptist Church in Roslyn Heights, where Audrey’s husband, Victor, is Pastor. Audrey named the resource center after her late mother in law, Edwinor Joye Lewis.

“We had a great relationship,” Audrey says, “I wanted to honor her memory.”

Audrey’s leadership and hard work has enabled the E Joy CRC to grow tremendously and offers hunger relief as well as addressing the long-term health and safety concerns for many Long Islanders.

What started in 2009 with 50 families at her Roslyn Heights location has grown to 200, and E Joy’s reach now includes Manhasset, Great Neck, Albertson, Mineola and Williston Park. In Suffolk County, the E Joy CRC in Holbrook is providing services to about 50 families.

“We give what we can, to whom we can, as much as we can,” she says.

The recession continues to impact more Long Islanders who then need E Joy’s assistance because they simply can’t stretch their paychecks far enough to make ends meet.

“We are seeing people who are working and never needed assistance before,”

Audrey says.

Asking for help for something as basic as food and clothing can be both awkward and humbling, especially for the employed. In many cases having a job can be a Catch 22, making a potential candidate for assistance ineligible for government-supported programs such as food stamps, yet even with a job they are unable to afford the basic necessities. Thankfully, through E Joy, they can obtain enough food to feed their family. For those that have never even contemplated applying for food stamps, Audrey provides weekly on-site SNAP enrollment.

Audrey’s original concept was to have a one-stop resource center in a central place that would provide a variety of services. She has accomplished that goal and more. In addition to the E Joy CRC food pantry and the Catholic Charities food commodity program, E Joy distributes clothing and school supplies, provides a job readiness program and offers ESOL workshops (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and a summer lunch program for children. Another priority for Audrey is helping senior citizens with their special dietary needs and keeps them connected to the community by providing a place for them to gather and enjoy exercise classes and various workshops.

For 2012, Audrey plans to offer a weekly computer class that will be equipped with laptops that were refurbished and then donated by Friendship Baptist Church members. Although E Joy CRC is not directly affiliated with the church, Audrey says that they help each other out when needed.

Providing services to the formerly incarcerated to help get them back into the workforce and the community is another program that Audrey is planning to introduce this year.

As a growing number of Long Islanders are experiencing the effects of the recession, Audrey believes it is essential to network in the community and establish new connections and collaborate with other businesses and non-profits.

“No organization is an island,” she says. “You can’t function by yourself.”

E Joy’s small administrative size hasn’t been a deterrent to its rapid growth, it has made Audrey more nimble than some of her larger counterparts.

“I’m not restricted,” Audrey says. “If I see a need, I can address it immediately.”