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MLK Center hosts annual Thanksgiving dinner

Organization donates food to hundreds of local families

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Long Beach residents filed in to the Martin Luther King Center on Tuesday to collect turkeys and traditional Thanksgiving dinner trimmings before a large community gathering at the center.

Organizers said that more than 20 volunteers worked since last week to collect donations and package food baskets that were distributed to local families in need prior to the 6th annual community Thanksgiving dinner.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office delivered 100 frozen turkeys, which thawed in the center on Monday as volunteers packed reusable bags donated by All Our Energy with turkeys, stuffing, mashed potatoes, bread crumbs, cranberry sauce, canned vegetables, gravy, corn bread mix, pie and more.

“The holidays can sometimes be very trying for a lot of people who are working to provide a big meal, because sometimes it’s hard for families to provide a meal even on a regular day,” MLK Center board Chairman James Hodge said.

In Nassau County, more than 19,000 families experience food insecurity — which occurs when financial or other resources limits access to food — and receive SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, according to Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman.

“It’s important to remember that real people, people we know, middle class families have needs and have food insecurity. That’s why we wrote this report — to raise awareness for it, and it’s why events like this are so important,” Schnirman said, referring to a report released by his office on Monday.

The MLK Center worked with its partners at St. Mary of the Isle Roman Catholic Church and the Department of Parks and Recreation to collect donations for the food drive. Numerous volunteers and cooks prepared the dinner on Tuesday, which offered more than eight turkeys, ham and 40 pounds of roasted potatoes. Entertainment was provided by a group of dancers from the Evangel Revival Community Church, who performed for hundreds of guests at the center.

“We know it’s hard times, and we try to show our love and support and help families that are trying to celebrate the holidays by providing them with a meal, entertainment and love from our staff, board members and volunteers to let them know that we care,” Hodge said. “We want to let them know that we are their extended family.”

The dinner was sponsored by Sara Companion HomeCare Services, an agency that provides family home care services.

“I like giving back to the seniors and I like to help them, so this is what I’m here for, especially during the holidays,” said Sernomia Gay, a service coordinator for the agency.

“A lot of times, holidays are when people feel down because loved ones have passed, so we try to be there to provide support and let them know that they’re loved and that they’re cared about,” Hodge said. “We try to inspire them and encourage them during the holiday season.”

Additionally, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky hosted a food drive to benefit Long Islanders and distributed about 200 turkeys this season.

“When our community bands together, great things happen,” Kaminksy said. “Our turkey drives make a big impact in ensuring all Long Islanders have a wonderful Thanksgiving.”