Thanksgiving and the holiday season are usually surrounded by family, friends and an overall good time. But for many on Long Island, the holidays can be a hard time due to financial hardships and the expectation to have a lavish holiday concentrated by a hearty meal. Many communities, schools and houses of worship on Long Island and in Port Washington are gearing up for the holiday season by holding food drives for those who may be food insecure this holiday season.
According to a report by the Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Program, 42 percent of households that live below the poverty line are food insecure. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) describes ranges of severity of food insecurity, with the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) recommending a clear and explicit distinction between food insecurity and hunger. Food insecurity is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Hunger is an individual-level physiological condition that may result from food insecurity.
Residents in Port Washington are gathering together this holiday season to give back to those who may need extra assistance this holiday season. The Port Washington Chamber of Commerce together with Police District Liaison Detective Anthony Guzello are holding a holiday toy and food drive to benefit those who are less fortunate. This holiday tradition is called “Make A Child Smile” and was created by Guzzello 12 years ago. The holiday toy and food drive will be taking place from Saturday, Nov. 14 to Monday, Dec. 16. Residents can drop off new toys and nonperishable foods at various locations in Port Washington, such as Anthony’s World of Floors, located at 49 Manorhaven Blvd. AR Workshop on 273 Main St. and Ayhan’s Mediterranean Marketplace, located at 293 Main St. Monetary donations are also accepted and can be mailed to the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 121. The money will be used to purchase gift cards and toys at stores in town.
“The joy you receive from knowing your donation can make a child smile will make your own holidays so much more meaningful and memorable,” Guzzello said.
Many food pantries, located inside churches in the area, are also working hard this holiday season. Our Lady of Fatima Church (OLF), located at 6 Cottonwood Rd. in Port Washington, has a food pantry, which is open every Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. The pantry serves residents from Manorhaven and Manhasset Isle who may be in need. The Church currently serves around 85 families on a bi-weekly basis and in more urgent circumstances, on an as needed basis.
Each year, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving food is delivered by individuals, groups and organizations to the OLF Parish Center on Manorhaven Boulevard. For Thanksgiving, the OLF food pantry collects turkeys, cranberry sauce, gravy, rice, stuffing mix, canned yams, pies, rolls, juice, butter, apples, oranges, clementines, broccoli, onions, sweet potatoes, white potatoes and carrots. Volunteers will then assemble the donations into Thanksgiving baskets for those in need.
“Thanksgiving at OLF Parish Outreach is a true community event,” their website states. “Port residents have shown their dedication to helping those in need within our community by collecting, organizing and distributing the items that are donated in order to provide our clients with the ingredients to make an incredible Thanksgiving meal. The amount of donations and number of volunteers that we receive every year is incredible and demonstrates the caring nature of Port Washington. It is so wonderful to be part of such a special community where the tenet of neighbors helping neighbors is genuinely embraced.”
The idea of anonymity for those in need of going to a food pantry is not lost on Jean Kelly, the executive director of the Interfaith Nutritional Network (The INN), a nonprofit organization that includes 14 soup kitchens on Long Island.
“[The poor and homeless often] get pre-judged, judged and put away in a little box so they get out of [society’s] face, so they don’t have to see them because it’s upsetting. And yet, it’s also inspiring if you’re looking at them from the right perspective because of their resilience and in awe of their ability to persevere and not give up,” Kelly said.
For more information about how you can donate to the “Make A Child Smile” fundraiser, call the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce office at 516-883-6566 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The OLF food pantry is also in partnership with Our Harvest an online grocer that offers pick-up and delivery to the New York Metropolitan area. Residents who purchase items through Our Harvest will help to stock the food pantry at OLF. Visit www.ourharvest.com.
—Additional reporting by Dave Gil de Rubio