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Coronavirus pandemic spurs volunteerism at Five Towns Community Center


While Inwood resident Sasha Young has been recognized for her volunteerism in the Five Towns at Gammy’s Pantry, she considers the efforts that she and others have made throughout the coronavirus pandemic a team effort.

Gammy’s Pantry is a free food bank that Young runs at the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence. It is named after Young’s grandmother, Betty Young, whose life and memory inspires Young. The pantry was designated a food distribution site by Long Island Cares in May. Long Island Cares is a nonprofit food bank headquartered in Freeport.

“Gammy’s Panty has been thrilled to partner with Long Island Cares during the Covid pandemic,” Young said. “Our pantry has been serving over 100 families weekly, as many of these people are homebound and seniors.”

Young, who was born and raised in West Virginia, has lived in the Five Towns for the past 20 years with her husband and three daughters. A special education teacher’s aide in the Lawrence School District for eight and a half years, currently furloughed by the district, Young is also involved in the Lawrence PTA. At the community center she supervises after-school education and recreation programs for children of all ages. 

In June, she was named a 2020 Trailblazer Award winner for her community activism by County Legislator Carrie Solages, who represents Inwood. Saying that she was honored by the recognition, Young added, “I have been so fortunate to be a part of such an awesome group of individuals who are focused on improving our community and making it a little brighter for all of us.”

As of July 3, she noted, nine other volunteers had each logged 600 hours at the pantry during the pandemic, helping to distribute food to people in need: her daughters, Alexandra and Alexis Acosta; Blanca Bran and her daughter Natalie Bran; Sarah Hayes; Syd Mandelbaum; Edwin Rodriguez; Nerthi Sanchez and Joey Valenzuela.

“Whether someone has volunteered an hour or 600,” Young said, “they have all made a difference.”

For Hayes, who also lives in Inwood, volunteering comes naturally. “I was raised by a single mother, and I always believed that helping fellow community members is the right thing to do,” she said. “This is the least I can do during a time like this.”

Mandelbaum, a Cedarhurst resident who is known for his volunteerism, especially through his anti-poverty nonprofit organization Rock and Wrap It Up!, has worked alongside Young during the pandemic, and described her work as amazing.

“Our community is blessed to have Sasha Young as one of its residents,” Mandelbaum said. “Through her incredible force of will and being hands-on, community members are inspired to join her. Sasha saw the daily needs of families and wanted to do something about it, and we wanted to partner with her to help accomplish that.”

Mandelbaum noted Young’s passion for helping those in need. “She includes her twin daughters, Alexis and Alexandra, in the often difficult routine of organizing food to give to the over 200 families which come to the door,” he said. “Her passion and articulation make her a magnet for those who want to give back.”

But teamwork, Young said, is what has made the difference during the pandemic. “I couldn’t have done all of this work just by myself,” she said. “This has been a total team effort.” 

Gammy’s Pantry is at 270 Lawrence Ave., is open Mondays and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information or to schedule a food pickup or delivery, go to licares.org or call (631) 582-3663.