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Food Drive

Highway Superintendent Kevin Orelli is pictured with Reverend Kimberly Gambino of the Helping Hand Rescue Mission in Huntington Station. Photo from Town of Huntington

The holidays are rapidly approaching. Unfortunately, this holiday season will be quite different for many people. Many families in our community are suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. There is no better time than the present to reach out and help our neighbors. That is why the Huntington Highway Department recently partnered with the Helping Hand Rescue Mission of Huntington Station this year for our “Highway Cares – Third Annual Food Drive”.

“As many food banks and local charities try to keep up with the overwhelming demand for food and supplies in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year is especially important to donate whatever we can to help those in need in our community,” stated Highway Superintendent Kevin Orelli.  “I’m so proud of the men and women in the Highway Department for giving their all in this year’s food drive. They have collected, itemized and packaged ten full boxes of food and delivered all to the Helping Hand Rescue Mission on Monday, November 16th, 2020,” added Mr. Orelli.

For those interested in helping to ‘Give the Gift of a Meal’ this holiday season, please contact Reverend Kimberly Gambino of the Helping Hand Rescue Mission at: 631-351-6996 or via email to: [email protected]

Suggested donations are canned tuna, chicken, beans, soups & stews, chili, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, stuffing mix, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, oatmeal, nuts and trail mix. Monetary contributions can be sent to the Helping Hand Rescue Mission, 225 Broadway in Huntington Station, NY 11746.

Members of the Miller Place Fire Department and other community volunteers successfully packed a department bus full of food and other supplies for the St. Louis de Montfort church’s food pantry. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though students now aren’t meant to sit too close on the bus, the Miller Place Fire Department, for the 10th year in a row, is using every inch of space in a bus that bears its own logo.

Members of the Miller Place Fire Department and other community volunteers successfully packed a department bus full of food and other supplies for the St. Louis de Montfort church’s food pantry. Photo by Kyle Barr

MPFD’s 10th annual Stuff-a-Bus event managed to fill every seat in their red-and-white bus to the brim with food and other essential items donated by the community. All food was delivered to the St. Louis de Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach for its food pantry.

Items were donated by fire department members and the surrounding community at the annual Stuff-a-Bus event held at the Miller Place Stop & Shop Nov. 20, from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. In addition to the donated items, Miller Place EMS Capt. Rob Chmiel, who headed the event, said they received nearly $1,000 in cash and gift card donations. The cash was used to purchase items the department was short of, and the gift cards were given directly to the food pantry staff, so they could use them to address their needs in the future.

Though normally the fire department holds its donation drive over two days, on the night of this year’s event, Chmiel said that they were receiving an incredible amount of donations, more than they usually do. They even received a car full of groceries by a volunteer at 4 p.m. By around 5:30 p.m., just two hours into the six-hour event, they had filled half the bus through several dozen residents donating a few boxes, cartons or jars at a time. By the end that same bus was packed to the seams. 

“We set out to make this the biggest year we possibly could, given the pandemic and everybody being stuck at home for most of the year,” Chmiel said. “We broke every record we possibly could.”

Elaine Bender, outreach director for St. Louis de Montfort Church, said the department did a “fabulous job” as they got way more than initially expected. The gift cards are also a big help as those are needed to help needy people purchase big ticket Thanksgiving items like turkeys.

The late afternoon-evening event was a large-scale operation, with a score of department volunteers bringing food to the bus and loading it up as music rang out over the crowded lot on the Friday before Thanksgiving. Other fire department volunteers stood by the doors to the supermarket asking local residents for donations.

“There’s a lot of hungry people right now,” volunteer Lori Aliano said. 

Since the pandemic’s start, Bender said the church has seen an increase in the overall number of clients they help. She added she expects there could be an increase in need should there be another statewide shutdown in the near future.

Chmiel thanked Marchand’s School of Dance for their yearly donations and Stop & Shop of Miller Place for allowing them to host the drive.

St. Louis de Montfort Church also hosts a drive for Christmas and will be accepting gift cards from any shop that sells toys supplies and/or clothing. Donations can be dropped off at the church located at 75 New York Ave. in Sound Beach.

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A local nonprofit that supports the needy on Long Island is anticipating record breaking need come Thanksgiving time.

Lighthouse Mission, a mobile food pantry that services several communities across Long Island, including on weekends in Rocky Point, Centereach and Port Jefferson Station, has come out strong during the pandemic, seeing a huge increase in the number of people seeking aid. Their numbers spiked from around 22 to 2,400 people a week to over 3,000 individuals once COVID-19 hit.

Pastor Jim Ryan, the president of Lighthouse Mission, said this Thanksgiving they could see somewhere around 10,000 Suffolk families coming to them for their annual Thanksgiving food distribution where the donate an entire holiday meal for those unable to purchase one.

“Some of them are just regular people living paycheck to paycheck,” Ryan said.

The nonprofit has seen the number of people looking for help rise while the number of donations go down, and Ryan said they are in need of food, clothing and monetary donations before the large November blitz. Specifically, they are looking for any Thanksgiving food one might find around the family table.

“COVID has been blasting people this year,” Ryan said. “As we start getting closer to the holidays, the concerns for this year is if we can meet need for Thanksgiving.”

The pastor said they have been practicing social distancing at each of their outreach locations, such that it has actually meant a surprisingly better organized day. Volunteers stand masked and gloved behind the food. People are invited forward to select what they need while people are kept separate. Anybody who shows up without a mask is offered one for free.

For more information or on how to donate, visit www.lighthousemission.com.

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Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson hosts a food and person care items drive to benefit the pantry at Infant Jesus Church on Saturday, Sept. 26 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Food items needed include mac & cheese, canned pasta (Chef Boyardee, etc.), coffee, sugar, flour, pancake mix, oatmeal, cereal, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, cooking oil, boxed milk, juice, canned fruit, healthy snacks, fresh chicken, fresh ground beef and hot dogs.

Personal care items needed include shampoo, baby shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, baby wipes, and diapers (size 6 and newborn).

Grocery gift cards and cash will also be accepted. Donations will be collected in the back of the theater on the south side of the building. Rain date is Sept. 27. For more information, visit www.theatrethree.com.

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Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson hosts a food and personal care items drive on Saturday, Aug. 22 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help stock the pantry at Infant Jesus R.C. Church in the village. Items needed and greatly appreciated include mac & cheese, canned tuna, bags of white rice, coffee, sugar, flour, pancake mix, pancake syrup, oatmeal, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, cooking oil, boxed milk, fresh chicken and ground beef, hot dogs, juice, healthy snacks, grocery store gift cards, shampoo, conditioner, soap and baby wipes. Please no pasta, peanut butter or cereal. A table will be set up in the back on the south side of the theater for donation drop-offs. Rain date is Aug. 23.

Emmy Specht delivers groceries to her neighbors in Bellport. Photo by Joanne Specht

Since schools shut their doors back in March, one student from The Stony Brook School has been keeping busy helping her neighbors in Bellport to beat food insecurities.

Emmy Specht among food items donated by friends and neighbors. Photo from Joanne Specht

Emmy Specht is spearheading a food drive and fundraising effort for those who have been struggling to buy groceries because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 17-year-old has been buying and collecting the food and then boxing up and delivering groceries to recipients.

Specht said a few weeks ago she had the idea to start a food drive and contacted Yolanda Lucas, the Day Care and Family Support coordinator at Boys & Girls Club of the Bellport Area. Lucas connected her with those who she knew needed help. Specht started spreading the word, and soon friends and neighbors were dropping off food on her front porch. When she heard that classmates and relatives in the Three Village area wanted to donate but were unable to make the drive to drop off items, she created the fundraising page Food for Suffolk County.

Lucas said she has been impressed by Specht’s endeavor, and how the high school senior took the initiative to contact her and is running the drive on her own. Lucas said it gives her a renewed sense of hope about young people.

“She’s doing it out of a concern for others,” Lucas said.

Specht, who has traveled to school in the Three Village area since she began her academic career in the Laurel Hill School, has been able to deliver food to 10 families each week, and so far she has raised $7,000. She added that her guidance counselor, Debbie Abrahamsen, whose husband, Stan, owns the Chick-fil-A in Port Jefferson, even contributed 30 gift cards for meals which include a sandwich, side and a drink, which she said is helpful for families to get a hot meal.

“It’s really amazing, and I’m really appreciative, especially since I know it’s a challenging time for everyone,” Specht said.

Abrahamsen said she cried when she heard about the student’s endeavor, especially since she recognized that as a senior Specht may be grieving the loss of prom and graduation.

“Instead of it being about her, she’s helping those in need,” the guidance counselor said. “I just think that’s amazing. How many high school seniors have that type of compassion.”

Every week, Specht aims to have three boxes for each family, and even though she isn’t able to meet them face-to-face, Specht has interacted with some from a distance.

Recently, the student received an email from a woman asking for help. The woman had seen the groceries her son had received from Specht and explained to the student how she was disabled, and her fiancé is an essential worker. She lives separately from her son, who has his own family, and in addition to her children living with her and her partner, there is also her mother who lives with them. In the email, the woman said they were using rent money to buy food. The high school senior said thanks to the generous donations she has received; she was able to help the mother’s household too.

Emmy Specht prepares boxes for a recipient. Photo by Joanne Specht

Specht is no stranger to philanthropy. She and her sister Rae, along with friends Maddie Joinnides and Eloise Kocay, founded Four Girls for Families. The nonprofit was inspired by a family visit to Cambodia. Specht’s father, Brian, works for Tara Toy Corporation and travels to China regularly. One year when the family accompanied him on a work trip, they paid a visit to Cambodia.

She said being in Cambodia and seeing kids her age who were unable to have essentials such as an education and clean water affected her greatly.

“That was unsettling to see kids my own age going through something so hard,” she said.

While she and her family visit the country every year, a trip planned for this June had to be canceled due to the pandemic.

Her mother, Joanne Specht, said she wasn’t surprised when Emmy started her food drive as she has always had a soft spot for others, and in addition to Four Girls for Families, her daughter volunteers at Sunrise Day Camp in Wyandanch, which is a camp for children with cancer.

“She’s always looking for ways to help people,” the mother said. “She’s got a very kind heart.”

Emmy Specht said the new fundraising project has taught her about the problems people face on Long Island.

“I’ve never really seen the kinds of needs that are here on Long Island,” she said. “It’s not on the other side of the world. There are also problems here.”

For more information on how to donate to the food drive, visit foodforsuffolkcounty.org.

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In March Three Village Civic Association volunteers, including board member Sotiria Tzakas, delivered food to the Three Village Central School District food pantry. Photo from Three Village Civic Association

The Three Village Civic Association is doing its part to help the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The civic association sent an email April 10 to inform members that the group established a Helping Hands program with the aim to deliver up to $100 groceries per week to anyone who needs them.

Those who are unable to leave the house because they may be infected, are one of the people at high risk or are having financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, can reach out to the civic association for help. Volunteers will shop, pay for and deliver the groceries. Residents who receive assistance are asked to contribute to the program if they can do so.

TVCA President Jonathan Kornreich said more than a dozen people asked for assistance during the first week of the program. He said that more than 20 people have offered to volunteer to help.

“The community is so amazing and ready to help,” Kornreich said, adding that local residents have sent in donations totaling $2,500 so far.

In March the civic association also picked up bags of donated items from residents’ curbs for the Three Village Central School District food pantry.

For more information, visit www.threevillagecivics.org.

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The season for giving is here, and while North Shore residents plan their holiday feasts, it’s a good time to consider the plight of people less fortunate. 

Imagine, more than 89,000 children on Long Island are hungry, according to Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares. These children aren’t dreaming of visions of sugarplums, they are wishing for substantial meals to get them and their families through the day.

Some centers, such as the Community Food Council on East 5th Street in Huntington Station, are reporting a 33 percent increase in demand over the last three months. It’s unclear why the sudden surge in food insecurities but the food banks are in need of supplies and volunteers, and counting on the local community to find ways to pitch in. So, it’s a good time to develop a plan. 

When preparing to donate to a food bank, a good rule of thumb is to call the nonprofit or visit its website to see what is needed. During this time of year, many have volunteers on hand to put together holiday meals. Throughout the year, depending on donations, there may be a surplus of one item and a deficit of another.

While many may be inclined to reach into their pantry to find nonperishables, a cash donation can often be the most beneficial to nonprofits, so they can turn around and buy food in bulk. This can also save volunteers time, because they don’t need to go through items looking at expiration dates.

If one wants to donate food, a trip to the supermarket is the best bet to ensure the donated items aren’t expired. Though if your cabinets are bursting at the seams, reach in and make sure to check expiration dates on cans and boxes. Also, look cans over to ensure they are not dented or leaking and that boxes aren’t damaged. And steer away from food in glass jars as these containers can easily break.

Take into consideration more nutritious options, too, such as cereals high in fiber, whole wheat pasta and low sodium soups and vegetables. When it comes to any kind of mixes, remember many households may be out of milk or eggs, so choose a mix that can be used with water. Another thing to consider is purchasing toiletries such as toothpaste, deodorant, diapers and toilet paper.

To increase the spirit of giving, organize your local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops or religion classes or get your children involved. Or, if you already know of a group organizing a food drive, contribute your items to the event. Collecting food for those in need is a wonderful way to inspire young ones to help others and it encourages them to continue charitable pursuits when they reach their goals or succeed them.

In our coverage area, in addition to Long Island Cares and the Community Food Council, there are the Smithtown Emergency Food Pantry, St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point, St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church in Selden, Ecumenical Lay Council Pantry through the First Presbyterian Church in Northport, St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Station, Our Daily Bread Food Pantry in Setauket and many more. 

As the lights come down in a few weeks, remember when it comes to food banks, the hungry keep coming. The spirit of giving can last all year round as these organizations are always in need of donations no matter what month on the calendar.

The gift of time, too, is also a generous way to contribute.

Brookhaven Town will be accepting donations for its food drive to benefit veterans from June 11-29. File photo

Town of Brookhaven’s Division of Veterans Services will be holding a food drive for vets in need from June 11 to 29. Last year’s food drive provided more than 300 bags of food to veterans and their families and was so
successful that the town decided to make it an annual drive.

“Brookhaven Town is home to veterans who have selflessly and courageously served our country,” Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “Many of them need assistance, and when provided with an opportunity, Brookhaven residents always rise to the occasion to help our neighbors in need. I want to thank the Division of Veterans Services and our local VFW representatives for working together to organize this initiative.”

Drop off points for the food drive are:

•Brookhaven Town Hall at 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville

•Henrietta Acampora Recreation Center at 39 Montauk Highway in Blue Point

•Brookhaven Town Highway Department at 1140 Old Town Road in Coram

•Rose Caracappa Senior Center at 739 Route 25A in Mount Sinai

Suggested nonperishables items include, but are not limited to, canned soups, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, cereal, oatmeal and rice. If you would like to find out more information about this food drive or other services provided by the Division of Veterans Services call 631-451-6574. 

“Brookhaven veterans and their families have sacrificed so much, and it is gratifying to know this drive will provide them with some much-needed relief,” said Councilman Michael Loguercio (R-Ridge). “I encourage residents to donate to this very worthy program and for our veterans to contact the town’s veteran services to find out what benefits you may be entitled to.” 

Kings Park Food Drive

The Kings Park Knights of Columbus will hold its annual food drive on Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22 at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 44 Church St., Kings Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations will support the needs of local families. Canned and packaged food such as cereal, pasta, peanut butter, jelly, soup, baby food, pancake mix and juice boxes are needed. To arrange a different date for drop-off, please call Bob at 631-724-1410.