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Kiwanis food drive a success

Organizer brings big heart to Broncos’ opening day

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The Seaford Kiwanis Club hosted a food drive in coordination with opening day for the Long Island Broncos youth football league at Seamans Neck Park in Seaford on Sept. 22. The community food drive donated 155 pounds of food to Long Island Cares. Locals brought pasta, peanut butter, pet food, canned vegetables and other nonperishable items.

The food-drive tent was set up just outside the entrances to both the football and soccer fields, where games were being played. The drive was the brainchild of Donna Jebailey, a familiar face to Seafordites. A Seaford resident for 26 years, Jebailey, a community organizer, brings a contagious generosity to whatever she’s involved with.

Jebailey had a career as a legal secretary in Manhattan for two decades before having children and becoming a homemaker, but she felt there was still more she could do. She looked for a part-time job, but she felt a passion to give back to the Seaford community, which was an idyllic place to raise a family.

She became a teacher’s aide in the Seaford School District, and for the past five years, she has been a job coach in the Life Skills Program at Seaford High School, working with special-needs students between ages 17 and 21.

“To be honest, it happened by chance,” Jebailey said. “But [the food drive] was probably God’s will. It has been such a surreal experience.” She saw the opportunity as a means to give back not only to her town, but also to the special-needs community, which has been close to her heart since she was a child.

“When I was young, my cousin Raymond was in a wheelchair,” Jebailey said. “He suffered from cerebral palsy and was forced into a wheelchair from a young age. He died at age 39. We just saw him like everyone else, like one of us. We wrestled around on the floor with him. We loved him.”

Her memories of Raymond, and the relationships she and other members of her family had with him, moved her to help those with special needs. Jebailey’s selflessness and sense of community led her to get involved in organizing other Seaford events, including the food drive. Kiwanis clubs focus on raising money, supplies and awareness to battle childhood poverty, disease and hunger, and Jebailey joined the Seaford Kiwanis in April 2018.

“I joined, and I knew I wanted to do fundraisers and food drives,” she said. “This is the second one we’ve done in the last few months. The last one we did was an Easter egg hunt food drive, and we raised 216 pounds of food. We didn’t have a specific goal; we just wanted to give as much as we could.”

In 2012, Jebailey organized the Seaford Farmers Market. On August 24, she set up a 50/50 raffle during the last Seaford Saturday Nights food truck event in which $1,800 was raised for the Spanos, a local family whose 21-month-old son, Frankie, has been battling an aggressive form of leukemia. Jebailey and her planning partner Celia Carlson, who Jebailey credits with doing “a lot of the leg work,” also organized this Saturday’s Oktoberfest.

“I was raised to be very caring and understanding,” Jebailey said. “I feel for others, and I think it’s important to give back at all times of the year. People are hungry at all times of the year, not just during the holidays. I hope the community continues to come out and support at every food drive that we do in the future.”

For more information on Frankie Spano — and “Frankie’s Fight,” at Mulcahy’s, in Wantagh, on Oct. 24 — go to www.gofundme.com/f/baby-frankies-fight.