Dianne Carannante is generating foot traffic at her home on Sheila Court in East Meadow. She set up a table of nonperishable food, candy, toiletries and other household items in her driveway, and is encouraging residents to either take any supplies they need or drop off more for others.
Sometimes, Carannante said, people drive past the table two or three times before parking, walking up and timidly taking an item or two.
“We don’t judge,” she said. “They could pull up in a BMW or Mercedes and the same rules still apply: Take what you need.”
The project is called Sharing Table, and it is one of more than a dozen that have popped up across Long Island over the past month. Carannante, 63, set up the East Meadow table on Dec. 28, after seeing a Facebook post about the opening of the first Sharing Table, in Seaford.
Mary Kate Tischler, of Seaford, put out the first table on Nov. 22, and runs it with her 6-year-old daughter, Ruby. Her inspiration, she said, was an article she read in the November issue of Real Simple magazine, titled “Reasons for Hope in America: 17 Reasons We’re Optimistic.”
The story featured 17 women across the country who were giving back to their communities during the coronavirus pandemic, including Kaylan Waterman, a musician and philanthropist from Detroit who pioneered the Sharing Table when she opened one in her neighborhood last May.
“I’m very big on volunteering,” Carannante said of her decision to start a table in East Meadow.
Carannante worked at Verizon Wireless for 32 years and is the incoming president of the Verizon Pioneers, a volunteer network of current and former workers in the U.S. and Canada. One of the Pioneers’ recent projects was Operation Christmas Child, in which they sent shoeboxes full of supplies and toys to 100 children in different war-torn cities overseas.
This holiday season, Carannante also contributed to Wreaths Across America, and raised money for 60 wreaths that were donated to families of veterans buried at Calverton National Cemetery in Wading River.
Before she set up her Sharing Table, she went shopping, and bought enough food and supplies to stock it. Within a few days, she said, she was overwhelmed by the generosity of her neighbors. Residents frequently dropped off items, and one directed Amazon ship supplies to Carannante’s house. Her church, Calvary Lutheran, also gave her boxes of supplies.
“I always look at the dates to make sure nothing’s expired,” she said as she inspected several new items that came in on the morning she spoke to the Herald.
Carannante stocks the table with at least one of each item and keeps the rest in her house. “My living room looks like Stop & Shop,” she said with a laugh. “We have wipes, we have soap, we have toothbrushes, toothpaste, razor blades . . . so if you’re driving in the neighborhood and you’re hungry, come grab a snack; I won’t judge ya.”
She added children’s books and board games to her table. “Literacy is very important to me, too,” she said. For the past four years, Carannante has worked for Suburban Bus Transportation in North Bellmore, driving a bus for students with special needs. Each holiday season, she buys each one a book reflecting their interests and reading level.
Carannante isn’t worried about theft, she said, adding that she had already seen a group of kids stuff most of the snacks into their backpacks. “You’re always going to have greedy people who just take things,” she said. “There are some people who really need these things, though, and that’s what’s most important.”
Carannante lives with her son Eric, 25, a construction worker. Throughout the pandemic, she has also been caring for her mother, Georgeanna, 83, and her husband Lou, 70, who is recovering from Stage 2 lung cancer and has been in remission since June. Lou, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, is also a survivor of Stage 4 kidney cancer, from which he recovered in 2013.
The couple also have two daughters, Danielle, 30, a Nassau County paramedic, and Laura, 27, a doctor’s assistant at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Uniondale.
“We’re very fortunate,” Dianne said. “It makes me feel good to know that we could help people.”
Her Sharing Table is open every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. To find out about other local tables, go to the New York Sharing Tables Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TheNYSharingTables.