Believers in Every Borough
George Zaloom: Missional Mechanic (Staten Island)
Before doing oil changes and tire rotations, George Zaloom wants his customers at Zaloom's Auto Repair Shop to know one thing: that God loves them. The native Staten Islander of Syrian descent has been a businessman in NYC's "forgotten borough" for over 35 years. "It's a beautiful day at Zaloom's," he says each time he answers the phone, and then, hanging up, "God bless you!"
However, if actions speak louder than words, it is Zaloom's efforts in Staten Island that communicate his hope in Christ. An elder at Salem Evangelical Free Church, chairman of Pregnancy Care Center (formerly Crisis Pregnancy Center of Staten Island), and an active member of the Bucks Business Network, a weekly gathering of Island business owners, Zaloom works tirelessly to embody the gospel and bless his community. When parts of the Island were pulverized by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, he entrusted his business to his son Joseph so he could devote himself to volunteering as a relief worker and community organizer. Today he divides his time between running the shop and continuing his work on Sandy relief efforts, which are expected to take years.
Neighbors and colleagues who do not share his faith ("yet," says Zaloom) speak highly of him. When his Jewish accountant arrives to work on his books, the men greet with a bear hug. "I'd trust George with my last dollar," he says—proof that Zaloom defies the shady auto-mechanic stereotype. A hair stylist next door to the auto shop, a self-described atheist, agrees that the community is better because Zaloom is in it. "George does a lot of good," he says.
"God has been faithful," Zaloom says. "Whether it's the integrity we demonstrate in our shop, the way we offer to pray with customers who are going through something, or our commitment to helping our community heal after Sandy, I want the Lord to be glorified." —Christy Tennant Krispin
Sandhya Boyd: Legal Luminary (Brooklyn)
When Sandhya Reju Boyd, 40, graduated from George Washington University and began interning with a public defender in inner-city Washington, D.C., she discovered how desperate poor people are for good legal services. "I had no idea what life was like for some people in my city."
But working for a public legal services agency left Boyd frustrated. "I wanted to help people spiritually." With support from her church, Brooklyn Presbyterian (now Resurrection Brooklyn), in 2006 Boyd founded Brooklyn Jubilee, a Christian nonprofit offering free legal advice and advocacy. "We found that our clients' three basic needs are affordable housing, access to food, and health care. Our primary focus is helping people with these three areas."
Running a legal nonprofit in New York, where the needs are exponential, is a tremendous task. Three days after Superstorm Sandy, Boyd and her colleagues visited evacuation centers in Brooklyn where they met supervisors responding to the immediate needs. "We knew from 9/11 that there would be a lot of legal questions, and that it would take months and even years for victims to be served."
Today Boyd oversees Brooklyn Jubilee's staff of nine working in five mobile sites and a trailer office established in Coney Island immediately following Sandy. As they care for Sandy survivors, they continue to help the dispossessed and disempowered understand their legal rights as they seek housing, food, and health care. And Brooklynites have taken note. "You are the best thing that has happened to us," says one resident.