Giving back for Thanksgiving

Locals focus on the less fortunate on what can be a lonely holiday


This Thanksgiving, local organizations and businesses stepped up to feed hundreds of the area’s underserved, and make the holiday a little less lonely for many.

South Bellmore Deli opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day to anyone not enjoying a dinner with loved ones. It was the second time for the deli, according to Bethany Colladi, a manager.

The deli invited U.S. military members, veterans, widows and “anyone that’s hungry” to come by for a plate of holiday fare, free of charge, and promised that there would be no judgment.

“We just care that no one goes without for the holiday,” the invitation read.

Colladi said that a number of families came in, and gratitude was in the air. “A lot of people were really touched,” she said. “And other people, who weren’t even there for the food, were thanking us for doing it.”

The deli’s new tradition was noticed and spread on social media, with 784 shares of the invitation.

“Simply a beautiful gesture,” Legislator Steve Rhoads, of Bellmore, wrote on Thanksgiving. “Thank you to Chris and your amazing staff … for reminding us that one of the best ways to give thanks for our many blessings this Thanksgiving holiday is to share those blessings with others.”

Diane Denora, of Bellmore, told the Herald that the deli’s gesture meant a lot more to her than a meal. “It brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart, being a widow,” she said. “I felt I was not alone for the holiday. To take time out of their day and away from their own families is priceless.”

At Connect Church in Bellmore, the congregation came together for the fifth year in a row to feed nearly 200 families, Pastor John Gravagna said. Each Thanksgiving box given away contained more than $100 worth of groceries — extending to the next day’s breakfast as well.

“We let them have a true Thanksgiving meal,” Gravagna said on Monday.

Families register prior to Thanksgiving to be considered for the program, then are vetted. While parents are working with church staff, children join in games and activities downstairs — “We give them a little refuge for the day,” Gravagna said.

The Families Feeding Families event wasn’t just aimed at prospective congregants either, although Gravagna said that many do end up returning to the church.

“It doesn’t matter what religion, the color of your skin — if you need help, we’re there to help,” he said.

The church found a number of partners in Mepham High School, the Kiwanis Club, the Lions and its youth offshoot the Leos, and Rhoads, again, with the youth group he leads at St. Pius X Parish in Plainview.

“It was an amazing experience,” Rhoads said. “Giving thanks by sharing our blessings is what the holiday is all about.”

Over the course of multiple food drives in the area, Gravagna said he is consistently impressed by the support the church gets from the community.

“The people in Bellmore and the surrounding areas are so generous,” he said. “We have fun doing it … People every year have seen us build that credibility — that we do what we say — and then the community comes out, and they’re very impressed when they see this group of people continuing to give and give.”