In the spirit of giving and sharing thanks with loved ones, nonprofit groups in Elmont hope to lend a helping hand this holiday season by eliminating the stress of families hoping to buy a meal.
One such group, Universal Interactions, founded by brothers Christiano Marcello and Antonio Marcello with Fenol LaRock, has hosted events throughout the community to promote unity since 2022. From community basketball tournaments, to toy drives, food drives and back-to-school events, the three Elmont Memorial High School Class of 2020 alumni have made it their mission to embrace togetherness in Elmont.
“We feel like the best event to bring our mission about — I feel like Thanksgiving is all about togetherness and bringing people together,” Christiano Marcello, executive director of Universal Interactions, said. “So, we decided that having a Thanksgiving dinner for the community would be the best event for our nonprofit to bring the community together.”
The dinner will be held in the high school’s gymnasium on Nov. 18, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Christiano Marcello said that the school’s Spartan Club helped secure the venue.
This marks the first time that Universal Interactions will host a Thanksgiving dinner in the Elmont community.
Guggins Café of Elmont will cater the event, offering traditional Thanksgiving foods, with vegetarian options available, Christiano Marcello said.
In addition, a DJ will play music at the dinner, and bands from the high school have been invited to perform.
Residents are welcome to RSVP for the dinner at ElmontCommunityCenter.org. The event has a maximum capacity of 300 people.
Meera Empowerment, an Elmont nonprofit that empowers the youth to get involved, is co-sponsoring the event.
About 30 volunteers, including high school students, parents and other community members, will help out during the Thanksgiving dinner. The Marcellos, LaRock and other volunteers have gone door-to-door to pass out 3,000 invitations and spread the word about the dinner.
“It took about three months preparing,” Christiano Marcello said. “Securing a location was the hardest part, but we are thankful to the Spartan Club for helping us get the location.”
He expressed hope that the dinner would be hosted at the high school for years to come.
Also, Giving Back to Community Corporation, an Elmont nonprofit focusing on feeding the hungry at home and abroad, will host a Thanksgiving food drive on Nov. 18, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., at 31 E. Merrick Road in Valley Stream. This marks the second year that the nonprofit will host a food drive.
Emilian Emeagwali, the corporation’s founder, said the food will be given out to be prepared for the holidays so that families can celebrate together without worry of the financial burdens associated with holiday meal prep.
Community members in need will be able to grab a frozen turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, corn, string beans and green beans.
The food will be purchased using funds raised by Giving Back to Community throughout the year. Arrow Exterminating has collected food to be distributed by the nonprofit, but Emeagwali said the collections would be used either at the Thanksgiving food drive or at a food drive in December.
Giving Back to Community has reached out to residents who are in need to invite them to the event.
“So, we are reaching out to them, and we are going to provide transportation to those that couldn’t come here,” Emeagwali said. “Or if we cannot bring them at that time, then we may have to do it after the people that came leave. And we would take the leftovers remaining to them.”
Emeagwali expressed hope that the food drive can feed at least 50 people. “I would like people to come and show those families in need that we really appreciate them, and we have them in our hearts,” she said. “We just want to show them they are loved and that people are thinking about them.”
To learn more about Giving Back to Community’s cause or to donate to fight hunger on the local or international levels, visit GivingBackToCommunity.org.