Wesam Hassanin, bar manager at Po’Boy Brewery in Port Jefferson Station, had an idea to bring community members together for a good cause.
“I wanted people to come out for something positive,” she said.
The process began at the end of 2019, when Hassanin began spreading the word of what she had planned on social media and to local business owners. Her project was to create 100 blessing bags for the homeless. Over the past two months, Hassanin and others purchased a number of essential items to pack in the bags.
“I didn’t expect this, I think I posted once or twice about it on social media and we literally had everything we needed for the bags probably within three weeks,” she said. “I can’t believe the amount of responses we got.”
On Feb. 16, close to 30 people came out to assemble and pack bags at the brewery and send them to Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson. Among those who came out to help were customers, family members, friends and fellow business owners.
“I wanted to help local men and women in need, I reached out to [Pax Christi] and they said they could ‘definitely’ use the blessing bags,” she said.
Rebecca Kassay, who runs the Fox and Owl Inn in Port Jefferson, praised Hassanin for her efforts to bring people together and help make a difference in the community.
“It’s pretty incredible to see so many people in the community come together — it makes you want to do more of this,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect, if two or three people tried to do the same effort, it would have taken all day. With the amount of people we had, it took 45 minutes.”
Kassay stressed the importance of extending a helping hand to others.
“I want to be someone as a resident, a business owner, who says what can I do to help these problems,” she said. “If I make these causes [in the community], I want to be a part of it.”
The owner of the inn said this event motivated her to do more.
“I volunteer at Hope House, so this inspires me to reach out to them more often,”
Bob Rodriquez, owner of the brewery and Hassanin’s husband, was proud of her efforts to help the less fortunate.
“All the kudos goes to her,” he said. “She approached me with the idea and I said, ‘Let’s do it’ … We really have her to thank for setting this up and the homeless people [at Pax Christi] will have her to thank for the bags.”
Hassanin said she is already considering what she can do next to give back.
“I wanted to do more [bags] but I didn’t want to get over my head, we thought 100 bags was a good number,” she said. “Maybe the next time we do this we’ll do more.”
The bar manager of the brewery said she hopes this will encourage others to pay it forward and give back.
“It means so much that they all came out to help out, we couldn’t have done it without them, Hassanin said. “I want this to motivate other people to do something similar and wanted to show its possible to do something like this.”