Kiwanis feeds hundreds of families for Thanksgiving


Every November, the East Meadow Kiwanis Club hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for senior residents and military families, drawing roughly 300 people each year. The club couldn’t host the event this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but members saw an even greater need to help feed the community, according to President Lisa Hallett.

“Because of pandemic restrictions, we’ve had to come up with a lot of creative ways to continue helping the community,” Hallett said.

Last Saturday, Kiwanians delivered meals to 70 East Meadow and Salisbury homes. Then, on Sunday, members set up a drive-through service at East Meadow High School and handed out 230 meals to residents. Each had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and gravy — a full Thanksgiving meal.

B&G Deli and Caterers, on Carman Avenue in Westbury, prepared all the food and gave the Kiwanis Club a discount.

When the pandemic began to spread on Long Island in mid-March, Kiwanis members started raising funds for meals and delivering them to community members who needed them at McVey and Parkway elementary schools and W.T. Clarke High School, which had all closed. They delivered thousands of meals through September, when students returned to school and the district began providing lunch again.

Since then the club has been adjusting its efforts to abide by coronavirus protocols. “Our members have really stepped up and gone above and beyond to make sure that everything we need to do for our community gets done,” Hallett said.

In addition to the Thanksgiving event, members would normally be gearing up for the club’s holiday dinner, in which it collaborates with Borrelli’s Italian restaurant, in East Meadow, to serve families in need around Christmas. The club is still planning to work with Borrelli’s, but is fine-tuning the details of what will most likely be another food-distribution event, Hallett said.

The club has also been making weekly contributions to the food and supplies pantry at McVey Elementary School, dubbed the McVey Mighty Kind Market. Each week, a different Kiwanian shops for supplies and donates them to the market.

And for the first time, the club has been presenting 10 Everyday Hero awards to residents, teachers and businesses as well as the Island Harvest Food Bank for its help with the food-distribution efforts. “There were so many people who stepped up to help,” Hallett said, “and we decided we would give back to them.”

The Everyday Hero program is run by the Kiwanis International’s New York District and, with each award, the East Meadow club makes a donation to the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Center.

Last Saturday, Hallett presented one of the awards to Steven Sacks, a social worker at Bowling Green Elementary School, in the East Meadow School District. Sacks was responsible for pinpointing students from families in need so Kiwanis could help them with its services.

“He has been extremely helpful in helping us meet the needs of people throughout the community,” Hallett said of Sacks, “especially when schools were closed and over the summer.”

The club is still hosting meetings twice a month, and livestreaming them over Zoom for those who can’t attend or don’t feel comfortable doing so. The next meeting is Dec. 8 at the Grand Stage Diner in East Meadow.