Smithtown Rises to the Challenge During Pandemic

Smithtown Rises to the Challenge During Pandemic

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Jennifer O’Brien and her daughters and son ready to deliver St. Patrick’s goodies to children.

As more Long Islanders are required to stay home from work and school due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Smithtown residents have been coming up with ways to help each other.

Nourishing the community

Teresa LaRosa leaves La Famiglia in Smithtown with food for family members. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Last Friday the phone was ringing off the hook at La Famiglia in Smithtown. Like many restaurants in the area, residents could go there for takeout, but the establishment was also offering a bit more. Last week co-owner John Cracchiolo notified patrons through social media that the family business wanted to show their gratitude to the community during the pandemic.

Cracchiolo and manager John Davella decided to donate 50 meals a day to seniors and those in need Thursday and Friday between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Instead of giving out 100 meals over the two-day period, the owner said they wound up handing out approximately 150. Cracchiolo said it was something he wanted to do to keep the doors open and his workers employed. 

“Am I scared, too? Absolutely, but as long as I can afford to do it, I’ll do it,” he said, adding he hopes to give out meals again March 26 and March 27.

Cracchiolo said he has been touched by those who have stopped by the restaurant to donate money to the cause, and La Famiglia has recognized many of the philanthropists on its social media page. Cracchiolo and Davella have received donations including a few even totaling $500 and $1,000, and one woman walked in and donated a gift card as well as $200 in cash. The owner said another woman drove all the way from Nassau County when she heard what the restaurant was doing to donate $50.

“People just started walking in and handing us money,” he said, adding it was a big help for their ability to donate more meals to the community.

The owner said he knows of people in the restaurant business who have had to close their doors during this time, and he’s grateful for the Smithtown community that he said has been good to him in the nearly 20 years since he opened La Famiglia. On Friday, the restaurant also donated food to the staff at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center.

“We’ve been here for so many years,” he said. “The community, the town have been good to me,” he said.

Cracchiolo said he had to cut a few things from his menu as they were hard to get, but most of the selections remain the same for those who are ordering takeout. 

For the free meals, the restaurant offered family-style options that included chopped or Caesar salad, a choice of pasta and sauce and a chicken dinner where people could choose between marsala, francese and parmigiana.

On Friday Teresa LaRosa, of Kings Park, picked up food for family members who are out of work. She said if other restaurants have the money to do so they should do the same.

“We all have to work together and do what we can,” she said.

Keeping the community smiling

Jennifer O’Brien runs a State Farm office in Smithtown where reaching out to the community is a big part of her job.

When it came to St. Patrick’s Day, she was unable to go ahead with an event that she had originally planned and decided to try something different. She posted on social media for people to send their names and addresses to her, and she put St. Patrick’s Day goody bags together that included light-up necklaces and a letter from a leprechaun to deliver to their children.

On March 17, she and her children dressed in green and delivered the bags by leaving them at participants’ doors, making sure not to touch any door bells or knobs. The family covered Smithtown from Kings Park to
St. James.

“It’s nice to know that you are still, ‘quote, unquote,’ touching people personally without physically touching them just by brightening their day a bit,” she said.

O’Brien said she is already thinking of different ways to brighten up Easter for community children, and with events canceled, she has been tapping into social media even more so.

When it comes to her everyday life, she said the State Farm office is closed to the public and a couple of employees are working from home. With her son’s birthday Tuesday, she invited friends on social media to pass by her house in their cars during a certain time frame to honk their horns or sing a song.

Looking for the helpers

Social media is filled with feel good posts during the pandemic.

On the Kings Park Downtown Facebook page, Linda Henninger posted that when she went to the grocery store March 20 to get oat milk, she noticed the market had received items that had been sold out for a while. She said she wound up buying more than originally planned.

“At the cashier, I had to take some items out of my cart,” she wrote in the post. “After I paid and left, the cashier came running out after me with a bag filled with the items I had to leave behind. She said a man in line paid for them for me. I was so touched, I sat in the car and cried.”

During a walk in a local park, one mother wrote in a post on the Smithtown Moms Facebook page that she found little vases with flowers with inspirational notes attached throughout the park, something that she said made her day.

“We need to look for the good because it is always there,” she wrote. “I hope this puts a smile on your face as it did mine.”

Have a story about how you or others have helped during this pandemic, let us know about it by emailing [email protected]