Many said the true spirit of Thanksgiving arrived in Huntington Nov. 20, filling its streets with a sense of community.
Hundreds of residents patiently stood outside PAS Professional Automotive Services at 6 p.m. Monday, after the shop was closed for the night. The line looped around the store’s parking lot, around the corner and trailed down New York Avenue. Each and every resident there in need knew they would be going home with a free Thanksgiving turkey to celebrate the upcoming holiday.
Andre Sorrentino, owner of PAS, was hosting his eighth annual Sorrentino Trucking Turkey Giveaway along with his family. This year, nearly 2,000 turkeys with the full fixings and various households goods were given away to Huntington area families.
“I saw there was a need in the community,” Sorrentino said as to his inspiration.
The lifelong Huntington resident said that his family’s tradition started one year when he purchased 30 frozen turkeys and handed them out of the back of a pickup truck.
“I couldn’t believe it, they were gone in like five seconds,” Sorrentino said. “I saw it and was like, ‘Wow, nobody else does this. This is a really good idea.’”
Huntington supervisor-elect and state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R) said he was on hand that first year and is amazed by what the event has turned into today.
“This is really what it means to be in the spirit of Huntington and the spirit of Thanksgiving, caring for one another and coming together as a community,” Lupinacci said. “To all the volunteers and the countless people who have donated, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
The supervisor-elect said that the Sorrentino family drive is one of the single largest Thanksgiving turkey giveaways in the region. Sorrentino said he purchased approximately 1,000 of the turkeys himself. His family and friends then hosted a fundraising dinner approximately two months ago and solicited donations from the community to provide the other 800 to 1,000 turkeys handed out last night, as donations were still being accepted up to the last minute.
Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said there’s a desperate need for this type of charity in the Huntington area.
“There’s a lot of people who are our next door neighbors who are food poor and every day rely on pantries,” Spencer said. “This event for some people may be the difference between having a family Thanksgiving meal or not.”
Those residents who received a turkey did so by redeeming one of the nearly 2,000 vouchers the Sorrentinos distributed to area churches, food pantries, soup kitchens and charitable organizations to hand out to those families in need of financial help or assistance for the holidays.
Suffolk County 2nd Precinct police officers helped hand out supplies to needy families along with help from Huntington, Halesite, Lloyd Harbor and other local fire departments. Jonny D’s Pizza in Huntington brought over free pizza for dinner to residents who were waiting in line, while Blondie’s Bake Shop in Centerport handed out free Rice Krispies Treats. A local 7-Eleven handed out free coffee to help keep everyone warm, and free hot dogs and cotton candy was made available.
In addition to the Sorrentino family giveaway, the not-for-profit organization Toys for Hope, whose mission is to assist needy children and their families, was there handing out donations to help make children’s holidays brighter.
“It gets more exciting each year with more and more of the community coming out to help,” Lupinacci said. “Whether it’s by donating money or organizing, helping hand out vouchers or spreading the word that if people need help during the holiday time that the community is there for them.”