A once a year community event that was originated by a Mineola resident during the holiday season of 2016 has spread to donating goods to medical workers in the frontline of the coronavirus.
Denise Heckelman founded Friends Who Give in December 2016 as an effort to raise money for local families in school districts that were in need of additional financial help around the holidays. Heckleman would accept donations of cash and gift cards at her home.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began rapidly spreading across Nassau County, Heckelman and others involved began thinking of ideas to help out others.
“I’ve always been an advocate in giving back to others,” Heckelman said. “Since we started Friends Who Give in 2016, we’ve raised roughly $13,000 for those in the Mineola School District.”
Lea Hennelly is a Garden City South resident who has been involved with Friends Who Give since 2016. She lives in the Franklin Square School District and has donated money and gift cards to families in the district. She also serves as the leader of the Girl Scout Troop 1754 in Franklin Square
Hennelly gave out her Venm acciunt username on the group’s Facebook page on March 28. Since then, roughly $3,500 has been donated to her Venmo account, which Hennelly has used to deliver snacks and goods to three hospitals: NYU Winthrop in Mineola, Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park and North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.
“We felt like it was an opportunity we couldn't pass up on since people just want to help during a time like this,” Hennelly said. “My Venmo was blowing up left and right. I bought about $800 worth of snacks as a thank you to our frontline workers.”
One of the frontline workers is New Hyde Park resident Jen Marsella, who works as a nurse at NYU Winthrop. Marsella helps with Friends Who Give in New Hyde Park and was “touched” by the delivery of snacks to the hospital. “It was amazing to find out that Lea was doing this,” she said. “It brings a smile to my face and that’s important because there is not a lot of smiling going on in hospitals right now.”
Marsella added how grateful she and her colleagues were for the donations “At night there’s not much to choose from when it comes to food,” she said. “To come in and see this food, all you can is thank you.”
Heckelman said the response from residents has been heartwarming. “We were put on this earth to do good things,” she said. “What we’re all doing such as donating masks to medical workers are all wonderful things that come from the heart.”
For more information on Friends Who Give, go to https://bit.ly/3e92Xty.