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Business owners in Salisbury set up free drive-through meal service

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A line of cars along Carman Avenue, in Salisbury, led to a parking lot in which an LED traffic message board read, “If you are hungry, please come.” It was a humid Saturday morning and, despite the intermittent rain, Jeffrey Lynch and his wife, Sigal, handed meals to drivers as they passed.

Sigal owns, and Jeffrey manages, BZ Transportation, a party bus and limousine renting company that occupies the parking lot. On May 23, for the third time this month, the couple set up a drive-through to distribute free meals to those who needed them amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can’t take anyone anywhere now,” Jeffrey said. “Weddings have been rescheduled to next year, proms are canceled, no one’s going on wine tours . . . but even though we weren’t working, we wanted to help people out.”

He recalled an elderly veteran who drove through their pickup location two weeks ago. “He said he was embarrassed to ask for a meal,” Jeffrey said. “I told him that he shouldn’t be — that he served our country and he’s a hero — and he started crying. It was very heartbreaking.”

Last Saturday, Lynch wore a facemask covered in pictures of dogs, which concealed a blond beard that dripped rainwater. The curve of his brows over ice-blue eyes gave him a sullen appearance, but as he handed the driver of each car a brown bag full of food and snacks, his cheekbones rose, evidence of a smile beneath the mask.

The Lynches first set up shop on May 6, then again that weekend — May 9 and 10 — and a third time last weekend. So far, they say, they have handed out 450 meals.

BG Deli, in Salisbury, has donated the meals, while BZ Transportation provides drinks and snacks. Both businesses have been collecting donations to offset the cost, and saw a surge in contributions after they posted the details of their project on social media.

At the end of each day spent handing out meals, Jeffrey has delivered leftover food to local nonprofits and front-line groups such as Brittany House, in Hempstead, and Nassau University Medical Center, in East Meadow. Last Saturday, he dropped off roughly 50 meals at the Northport Veterans Agency.

As word has spread on social medial, volunteers from Brittany House and local high schools have been helping the couple hand out and deliver the meals.

The Lynches launched BZ Transportation in 2012 in Massapequa, where it still has an office. Roughly a year ago, its vehicle inventory expanded, and it set up shop at the additional location in Salisbury.

Business be-gan slowing in late February as the pandemic spread to the U.S. Then, on March 5, their operation came to a halt.

“Nobody sign-ed up for this,” Jeffrey said. “But we’re strong, and we’re strong united.”

He said that he and his wife also remain strong for their children, Zoey, 9, and Beny, 8. “As we speak, he’s building a Lego Mustang,” Sigal said with a laugh. “And Zoey is probably drawing or doing arts and crafts.”

The children contributed to their parents’ cause by making construction paper thank-you notes to give out to essential workers and veterans with their meals.

Since the pandemic began, BG Deli has donated an additional 500 meals to hospitals and first responders. Jeffrey reached out to its owner, Alphonse Lentz III, with his idea for the drive-through.

Lisa Hallett, of East Meadow, a customer in the deli last Saturday, attested to Lentz’s commitment to the community. “He supports school car washes, he supports the Little League and he was incredible during Sandy,” Hallett said, referring to food and clothing donations Lentz launched after Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island in October 2012.

“I don’t want no credit or anything like that,” Lentz said. “I love doing what I’m doing. I like pleasing people. In fact, it frustrates me when they don’t let me please them.”

One of the first groups to whom Lentz donated meals was the East Meadow Fire Department. He is planning to host a barbecue to celebrate and thank them for their response and bravery through the pandemic, when it’s over.

“I’ll have Jeff come down with that big sign of his,” he said, referring to the traffic message board. “We could have the Blue Knights vets band. I hope it gets so crowded we have to close the parking lot.”

BG has been in Salisbury since the 1960s, and for years, Lentz, who grew up working in the business, heard about its success before buying it in 2000. “In this community, if they like you,” he said, “they’ll swear by you.”

BG and BZ plan to continue donating meals this weekend, and will post the details on their social media accounts — and on that traffic message board.