In Cedarhurst, Rock and Wrap It Up! has created a safe haven for veterans to shop that helps to reduce their exposure to the coronavirus.
Serving the Five Towns for more than 30 years, Rock and Wrap It Up!’s Andy Parise Veterans Toolkit has launched the Veterans Farmers Market at 405 Oceanpoint Ave., in Cedarhurst, the home of Rock and Wrap It Up! founder and Chief Executive Officer Syd Mandelbaum, who serves a commander of Lawrence-Cedarhurst American Legion Post 339.
Rock and Wrap It Up! is an award-winning anti-poverty think tank, researching, discovering and nurturing potential sources willing to share renewable assets that have fed more than 1 billion people in need. Named for the longtime mayor of Cedarhurst, who served in World War II, The Andy Parise Veterans Toolkit is constructed to offer at-risk veterans job opportunities, vet-friendly colleges, services for female veterans and more.
When Mandelbaum saw many of his friends that are veterans were at high risk for the coronavirus in regular supermarkets because of long lines, he created a place to shop at a distance. “To me, it was all about protecting their health and having a place where we can control the numbers,” he said.
Veterans gather socially-distanced in Mandelbaum’s backyard on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wearing masks, dozens of senior members from the Lawrence-Cedarhurst American Legion Post 339 and the Inwood Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1582 pick organic fruits, vegetables, salads, meats and fish.
The veterans choose from many perishable items kept in a refrigerated vehicle. Mandelbaum said senior neighbors come as well, along with staff members of Rock and Rap it Up!. Due to losing their full-time job because of the pandemic. The remaining food is given to Gammy’s Pantry, a free food bank in the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence.
Domenic Crici, 88, is sergeant-at-arms of Post 339. He said the market has helped him tremendously. “Syd is very generous,” Crici said, “I’m eating more vegetables and fruit now cause it’s not always there for me in the store.”
The veterans market relies on its partnership with Trader Joe’s in Hewlett and Costco in Lawrence. The market also receives donations from Wall’s Bakery in Hewlett, the Bagelry and Crawfords Coffee Bar & Café, both in Cedarhurst, private donors and some veterans, who in turn, shop at the market. Mark Schechner of Wall’s Bakery has donated to Rock and Wrap It Up! for over 20 years. He said he is proud to donate leftover bread rolls, and Long Island needs more of these programs.
Pat Alesia, 72, was a brigadier general when he was discharged from the army. He is a member of both posts. Alesia helps get pick up perishable and nonperishable items from Trader Joe’s. Alesia said the store accommodates the veterans by allowing them to avoid the long lines.
Post 1582 Commander Miguel Martinez, 47, is a master sergeant with the United States Army Reserve and has served in the military for 26 years. He is a volunteer driver for the market. Martinez said he has a healthy family, making him glad these services help veterans who are alone and cannot go to a regular store.
“We’re very proud of the program and will use the success to help veterans markets across the United States, at risk, and in need,” Mandelbaum said. “If we can feed them and keep them safe, we've really done a job.”
For more information on the Veterans Farmers Market, go to https://www.rockandwrapitup.org or call 1-(877) 691-3663.