Local Students Band to Gather Fresh Food for Needy

Local Students Band to Gather Fresh Food for Needy

From left to right, Joshua Young, Abby Morrongiello and Zach Young work at Chocolate & Honey to raise money for their home-grown group Don8tions. Photo from Anna Morrongiello

By Leah Chiappino

A group of local teenagers have come together to form a local charity, which they have named Don8tions, in hopes of providing soups to families in need.

The group’s founding members consist of freshman twins Joshua and Zach Young, who both go to P.J. Gelinas Jr. High School, sisters Anna and Abby Morrongiello of Sachem and Meena Tommasino-Storz of Ward Mellville. Meena and Anna are sophomores, and Abby is in seventh grade. 

Having been family friends for years, they had been volunteering at Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in Centereach throughout their childhood, which donates food to local shelters.

Yet, the group wanted to do more. They visited The Children’s Community Head Start Birth-to-Five Program in Port Jefferson and said they realized poverty and child hunger are not things to which our local area is immune. 

“It was a really enlightening experience,” Zach said. “The kids often don’t get breakfast on the weekends because they don’t go to the program then. It’s not something that’s happening in some far-off country. It’s happening right here in our communities.” 

The teens soon realized some homeless do not have the opportunity to cook vegetables, even if they’ve been donated to them. On top of that, they wanted to provide healthy food to families who often can only afford less healthy food. 

“We didn’t want them to have an idea that was our idea,” Josh and Zach’s mother Michelle Young said. “We gave them the tools and let them brainstorm. When you give kids a purpose, it’s so empowering. They really believe in what they’re doing.” 

While the organization’s founding members originally wanted to prepare the soups themselves, it proved to be too complicated, so they have partnered with Centereach-based HeartBeet Farms to donate soups to Head Start. The teens hope to inspire other kids to get involved in community service as well as to eventually open their own plot of land to grow the vegetables needed to make soups.

“Our goal is to feed as many families as we can for as long as we can through the winter,” Zach said. Since the summer, they have been donating every week.

“Our goal is to feed as many families as we can for as long as we can through the winter.”

– Zach Young

Chrissy Reilly, the health and nutrition manager at Children’s Community Head Start, said the kids were doing good work.

“The families gave great feedback. they really enjoyed all the soups and this allowed them to try new healthy options,” she said. “We were able to give them advice on how to make the soups full meals, such as pairing tomato soup with grilled cheese.”

Each member of their small organization seems to have found their role. 

“I’m more of a social person, so I love to talk to people and get the word out,” Anna said.

Josh loves to cook, and it was his idea to make the soups.

“If I can make it, at least I know I’m giving someone a nice meal,” he said. 

Josh also designed the logo. Though Abby is only in seventh grade, she acts as the recording secretary for the group and writes down all of the statistics

“My sister doesn’t like to talk a lot, so she writes,” Anna said.

Meena said she started volunteering with HeartBeet around two years ago, and after becoming affiliated with Don8tions, she and her small group have been looking to grow.

“The whole idea of Don8tions is to provide less fortunate kids and families in our communities with healthy, filling soups,” she said. “I really hope Don8tions can achieve this and help many more people.” 

The kids currently work at Chocolate & Honey, a holiday concession stand in the Smith Haven Mall, and donate half of their profits to the cause. They aim to raise additional funds through distributing a flyer at Minnesauke Elementary School, R.C. Murphy and P.J. Gelinas junior high schools and Ward Melville and Sachem high schools until Dec. 24. If customers present the flyer at the stand, they get free honey sticks, and a portion of the sales goes to the organization. For more information or to access the flyer, visit www.don8tions.com.