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Neighbors ensure a Thanksgiving feast for all

Holiday food relief


With Thanksgiving Day approaching, North Shore residents who are part of a non-profit or religious organizations are working to ensure that no neighbor will go without a Thanksgiving Day meal.

While the idea of Thanksgiving food drives and community meals are not new, neighbors are finding it especially urgent to provide food relief at a time that many are struggling financially due to Covid-19.

Madeline Rubenstein, a board chair of the North Shore Soup Kitchen that was adopted by the food relief program called NOSH, said that gift cards will be provided to the approximately 400 families that NOSH delivers bags of groceries to.

“On Thanksgiving we’re not giving out turkeys because we have to deliver, so if you’re a delivery driver delivering to 15 families food, on top of that 15 turkeys, it’s really too much to ask,” Rubenstein said. “So instead, we will give out a gift card to all of our families so that they can purchase a turkey if they’d like or if they’d rather purchase something else rather than a turkey, they can purchase that also.”

Kimberly Conte Velentzas, who has been offering her porch as a place to drop off food donations since the spring, was also concerned that families would not be able to provide a Thanksgiving meal this year due to the Covid-19 related financial crisis.

Therefore, as part of a project that has been coined the Porch Pantry, which has recently received its non profit status, a Thanksgiving food drive is being held in collaboration with other organizations like the Glen Cove YMCA to help neighbors celebrate the holiday.

“Its truly a community effort,” Conte Velentzas said. “As of now we have over 250 families that we’re hoping to help have a happy Thanksgiving, but we are not doing it alone and we have a lot of options on how people can help.”

One of those options, she said, is to physically drop off donations at the porch located at 99 McLoughlin St. in Glen Cove. “People can drop off non perishable food items at any time,” Conte Velentzas said. “That is a huge help.”

People can also make monetary donations or participate in the Porch Pantry’s “Adopt A Family” program, where participants could shop for a family and deliver groceries this Thanksgiving, providing a family with a full Thanksgiving meal and perhaps some extra groceries.

“I think this is important because this lets families know that they haven’t been forgotten,” Conte Velentzas said. “These are truly the kids and the families we see on the soccer field and that my child sits next to in social studies class, the people who we are standing on line with in the grocery store. It’s really the people in our community and I think that’s what speaks to people and why they want to help so much.”

Glen Cove resident Damary Mercado knows just how much the community can pull together when they see a need, as she is a member of the Wine Fairies of Glen Cove, Glen Head, Sea Cliff, Glen Wood Landing and Locust Valley Facebook group. She has received support for her Thanksgiving food relief project under her non profit called Glen Cove United, Inc., which she runs with former Glen Cove City Councilman Roderick Watson.

Glen Cove United, Inc. tends to focus on Glen Cove Housing Authority families. “During the Covid, obviously it was something we were all experiencing for the first time,” Mercado said. “”I just started going grocery shopping and dropping food off to those who were in need and then about less than a month ago, I said, ‘Thanksgiving is around the corner, what are we going to do?”

Mercado said that her goal and Watson’s is to help 10 to 15 families put Thanksgiving dinner on the table. “[Watson] would like to help a few seniors who usually reach out to him when they need help,” Mercado said. “I’m Puerto Rican descent so I try to help as many Hispanics and Latinos as I can as well.”

“We are going to do Thanksgiving baskets or trimmings of turkeys, everything that you would have for Thanksgiving, desserts too,” Mercado added.

As for the distribution of cooked, hot meals, Trinity Lutheran Church in Glen Cove will be handing out meals to go in lieu of its usual Thanksgiving Day feast that it offers, as well as a food pantry that is open on Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. and every third Saturday of the month from 9:30 a.m. to noon.

The Thanksgiving meal takeout, which will be a full, cooked Thanksgiving meal, will be distributed on Nov. 21 from 2 to 6 p.m. “Just call ahead to let us know if you’re coming to pick up a meal or not,” Pastor Travis Yee, of Trinity Lutheran Church said. “We’ve been doing the Thanksgiving meal for the past two of three years but we usually do a big sit down community meal, but because of Covid we’re just going to do take out.”

“We just want to make sure that the community knows that we’re here at the church not just to help spiritually, but to also help in different ways,” Yee added. “Mentally, people are worrying about the next meal.”