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Helping those in need

East Rockaway Church, Lynbrook civic group to provide Thanksgiving meals

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Though the 11th annual Thanksgiving dinner at Bethany Congregational Church had to be canceled, organizer Barbara  Herrmann will still be busy preparing and delivering meals for those in need this holiday season.

Each Thanksgiving, the church, at 100 Main St. in East Rockaway, hosts a dinner for those who need a hot meal. This year, however, things will be done a bit differently because of the coronavirus pandemic. Herrmann, and her children, Alyssa and Matthew, will work with a handful of volunteers to prepare meals and deliver them to those who order in advance.

“It just saddens us, because it’s something that we really enjoy doing,” Herrmann said of having to cancel the in-person event. “It’s a wonderful event for the community, and it really, really promotes fellowship. We understand that this year we cannot offer the community this dinner because we need to make sure that everybody stays healthy.”

Though in-person events are canceled, the East Rockaway and Lynbrook communities are each providing meals for those in need.

Herrmann and Bethany Congregational are taking orders from those who would like a meal sent to their homes with contactless delivery. As has been the case with the in-person gathering for the past decade, the dinners will include turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables, bread and other traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

Herrmann said that more than 80 people attended last year’s dinner, but such a gathering is not possible this year, in part because the church had to scale down on the number of volunteers cooking and working in the kitchen to maintain proper social distancing. 

According to Herrmann, it’s the first time in the 11 years that she has organized the event that the dinner had to be changed, but she noted that she and the church’s leadership have contemplated the possibility of celebrating Thanksgiving in the spring by providing a similar in-person meal for those in need if coronavirus cases and restrictions ease up by then.

Herrmann said she anticipates this Thanksgiving to be similar to others in many respects. She plans to wake up early and begin preparing the to-go meals with her family and volunteers, and then she will coordinate dropping them off at people’s homes. For those who are unaware that the in-person event is canceled, Herrmann said, about 15 meals will be given to the church to distribute to anyone who arrives seeking one. More than a week before the holiday, she said, the church had already received a dozen orders.

Those in need of a meal can contact Bethany’s office at (516) 599-5768 before Nov. 23.

Herrmann said having an in-person event was not worth risking the health of attendees and volunteers, and added that social distancing did not follow with the fellowship theme. 

“It’s still important to us that we still give back to others,” she said, “and we’re disappointed that it can’t be in person, but we certainly don’t want individuals in the community to feel that we’re not going to just do it a little differently this year. We’re still trying. It just has to be different.”

The Lynbrook community is also looking to help those in need this Thanksgiving, which included the Lynbrook Cares Committee helping Our Lady of Peace Church with its food drive.

At Monday’s village board meeting, Laura Ryder, chairwoman of the Lynbrook Community Chest — which provides financial help to Lynbrook residents — said the group will provide a free Thanksgiving meal with turkey and sides to any Lynbrook resident in need. Recipients must cook the meals themselves, she said, but they will be dropped off at their homes for free.

“What we’ve come to realize is that people are still suffering and people are still hurting,” Ryder said. “Even though a lot of people are back to work, there are still many, many families that are feeling the effects of Covid-19 and being out of work.”

To help them, she said, Community Chest members wanted to provide free meals. To request a Community Chest dinner, Lynbrook residents can call the mayor’s office at (516) 599-8300. All requests will remain anonymous.