For borough residents in need of a meal, Aleksander Nilaj is the man to know.
Nilaj, 48, an Albanian immigrant who is a Pelham Parkway building superintendent, spends most days of the week delivering food to distribution sites and anyone in need. Through the Albanian American Open Hand Association, which he founded in 2012, Nilaj has organized the collection and delivery of tens of thousands of meal ingredients to individuals and charitable groups across the Bronx.
Throughout the pandemic, Nilaj and a team of volunteers have increased the reach of their program in an effort to meet rising levels of need. Prior to the pandemic, the Bronx had one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country. The situation has only become worse.
From the cold of the winter and into the thaw of spring, Nilaj and his fellow volunteers have worked to provide a degree of stability in hard-hit neighborhoods.